Though always suspected, a team of researchers in London have found definitive evidence to link air pollution with poor health. According to a recent study by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, air pollution increase ones risk of heart attack and stroke. The risk is especially high in women and the elderly.
Moving out to the countryside may not only offer a great view from your kitchen window; it could save your life. A team of researchers collected data from individuals living in England and Wales between 2003 and 2009, BBC reported. Individuals' exposure to air pollution was assessed with recorded readings from monitoring stations closest to the participants' homes. Results showed a clear link between air pollution and cardiovascular problems. What’s most surprising is that these problems are able to manifest even after only short-term exposure to air pollution. "This research adds weight to what we already know, but goes further to suggest a link between air pollution and an increased risk of blood clots in the lungs and heart rhythm atrial fibrillation," Julie Ward, senior cardiac nurse, told the BBC.
Short-term air pollution was linked to abnormal heart rhythm and blood blots in the lungs. This risk seems to be biggest among women and those over the age of 75, the BBC reported. The study however is not complete as of yet. "Our study found some evidence of air pollution effects on irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) but no clear evidence on heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke, which represents, ultimately, [the] blood clotting process[es]," lead researcher Dr. Ai Milojevic explained to BBC.
Exposure to nitrogen oxide was found to have the closest link to ill health, closely followed by exposure to sulfur dioxide, Medscape reported.
The World Health Organization describes air pollution as a “major environmental risk to health.” They report that outdoor air pollution is responsible for an estimated 3.7 million premature deaths each year, according to a 2012 survey. At this point air pollution’s effect on one’s risk of heart attack and stroke is much less understood. Further studies will be conducted into this possible link, the BBC reported.
In another recent study on mice, air pollution was also linked to harmful brain changes, such as those found in autism and schizophrenia. "Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that air pollution may play a role in autism, as well as in other neurodevelopmental disorders," lead researcher Professor Deborah Cory-Slechta, told the Daily Mail.
Source: Milojevic A, Wilkinson P, Armstrong B, Bhaskaran K, Smeeth L, Shakoor H. Short-term effects of air pollution on a range of cardiovascular events in England and Wales: case-crossover analysis of the MINAP database, hospital admissions and mortality. Heart. 2014.