Air Pollution, Traffic Noise May Cause Heart Disease

A study headed by Dr. C. Arden Pope III of Brigham Young University examined samples of pollution particles in Provo, Utah. The researchers looked for immune cells and microparticles that shows cells are breaking down and dying.

The participants of the study were healthy with no existing heart disease. The results of the study show that tiny particles do not only aggravate existing cardiovascular problems, they may play a part in initiating them.

"There is substantial epidemiological evidence that long-term exposure to air pollution increases the risk of these events and even of dying of cardiovascular disease," Pope said. "What we're learning is these air pollution exposures are triggering biologically relevant pathways that we can measure in the blood."

"Blood vessel damage is an underlying characteristic of much cardiovascular disease including coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease and can lead to serious, even life threatening acute disease events including heart attacks and strokes," Pope added.

The United States has significantly decreased pollution levels which is a success story, Dr. Joel Kaufman of the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle, who is not part of the study, said. However, in other countries, pollution has not been addressed.

A much bigger study led Professor Barbara Hoffmann, Professor of Environmental Epidemiology at the Centre for Health and Society at Heinrich-Heine-University of Düsseldorf, Germany and which was published in European Heart Journal, shows similar results. This study is one of the first to investigate both air pollution and traffic noise simultaneously.

A total of 41,072 people living in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Spain participated in this research. What the study authors found out is this: for every five micrograms [2] per cubic meter (5 µg/m3) of PM2.5, the risk of hypertension increased by a fifth (22 percent) in people living in the most polluted areas compared to those in the least polluted areas.

"Exposure to traffic noise shares many of the same sources with air pollution and so has the potential to confound the estimates of the adverse effects of pollution on human health. However, this study controlled for traffic noise exposure and found that the associations of air pollution with hypertension did not vanish. This is important because preventive measures for air pollution and noise differ," Hoffman said.

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