Traffic fumes linked to heart attacks
by David Masters
September 16, 2008
Researchers in the US have discovered an additional link between air pollution and heart disease.
A report by scientists from Harvard University in Boston reveals that exposure to micro pollution particles can prevent the heart from conducting electrical signals.
Fumes from traffic were found to be particularly potent.
Forty eight patients with coronary artery disease were analysed in the research, in the weeks following their discharge from hospital.
No patient’s average exposure to pollutants exceeded National Air Quality recommendations.
Even so, when the patients were around heavy traffic or other sources of pollution, their heart’s ability to conduct electrical signals reduced significantly, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
The sooner after a patient was released from hospital, the higher the risk. The first month after hospitalisation was a particularly risky period.
Patients with diabetes, or who had already suffered from a heart attack, were the worst affected.
The study is backed up by past research linking pollution to heart attacks.
Research in Dublin found that after coal sales were banned in the city, black smoke concentration fell 70% within six years. During the same period, deaths from heart attacks fell 10%.
The research concluded that people who have recently suffered a heart attack – as well as healthy people – should avoid being around heavy traffic whenever possible.
In addition, the research advises patients being released from hospital to escape the city for a few weeks.
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