Air Pollution Linked to Heart Problems, Deaths
WebMD News Archive
"This is one of a series of studies looking at heart rate variability,
and probably the most comprehensive one that's been published to date,"
says Daniel Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute in Boston.
"One key question this study doesn't fully answer is whether this should
concern those who do not have preexisting heart or lung disease." The
Health Effects Institute is a nonprofit organization partially funded by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Greenbaum is a member of the National
Research Council's Committee on Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate
Additional studies are now under way to explore these issues using a range
of methods, with results expected within two years, Greenbaum says. "The
EPA has already set a standard for fine particle reduction. It is scheduled to
review and possibly change that standard by 2002. After that we will see many
efforts to actually reduce air pollution, so at that point, data on what parts
of the particle mix are most toxic would be very useful."
Consumers should recognize that pollution control is not merely a matter of
economics, Lauer says. "This research provides additional evidence that air
pollution is dangerous. People should be concerned about it as a public health
- Harvard researchers report everyday air pollution may impair the heart's
ability to change the speed at which it beats, or its heart rate variability.
This loss of heart rate variability could lead to more heart problems and
- Other studies have demonstrated the link between air pollution and rises in
heart attacks and heart-related deaths. But the scientists in this study say
this is the first time a team has shown that air pollution hinders the heart's
ability to adjust to the pumping demands the body puts on it.
- A major culprit in air pollution seems to be the fine particles in diesel
waste from buses, trucks, and heavy equipment. Doctors still don't know whether
those who already have a heart problem are at greater risk.