A recent study of 8,000-plus heart attacks in New York City has provided scientists with tangible evidence that breathing in the fine particles common to urban air increases the risk of fatal heart stoppage.
According to Dr. Robert A. Silverman of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, as particulate matter of pollution increased, so did the number of cardiac arrests.
Previous research had already found a correlation between air pollution to other serious health problems, such as asthma, cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease.
The specific goal of this new research was to determine if the liquid droplets and tiny particles created by coal power plants and automobile combustion could lead to sudden death from cardiac arrest.
Cardiac arrests account for over 300,000 deaths each year in the United States. And when a heart attack occurs outside of a hospital, a victim generally has only an 8% chance of survival.
To achieve their findings, the research team compared NYC air-quality monitors with 8,000-plus cardiac arrests between 2002 and 2006 that occurred outside of hospitals.
When the team analyzed particles less than or equal to 2.5 micrometers, they discovered that risk of heart attack rose by as much as 10% for each 10-microgram increase of particulate per cubic meter.
The greatest level of risk was apparent during the warm-weather seasons. They found no difference in risk based on age, gender or race.
The research team also investigated ozone, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. The team did not find any evidence to link these to the risk of cardiac arrest.
Nevertheless, Silverman cautioned that this does not mean gaseous pollutants do not have an effect on the heart, only that they were unable to measure it in this study.
Dr. Robert A. Kloner at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, added that air pollution is a complex topic. The gaseous pollutants can mix with the fine particles, and in the case, it is difficult to discern the true cause.
In a distinct study performed by Francesca Dominici at the of the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, they were able to identify a link between hospitalizations due to cardiac arrest and rise in particulate matter in various urban areas across the country.
Silverman cautioned strongly against assuming that being indoors would provide adequate protection. If outdoor air quality is poor, indoor air quality typically is as well. In fact, indoor air quality tends to be worse because of the airtight nature of modern homes and because of a lack of adequate filtration.
Residents can achieve safe indoor air levels by using a high-quality HEPA air purifier, doing proper maintenance to your air conditionings or HVACs, eliminating unpleasant odours in your office and house.
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