Study: Air Pollution Can Cause Irregular Heartbeat, Lung Blood Clots

The pollutant believed to cause these health problems is fine particulate matter

In last year's October, the World Health Organization labeled air pollution a leading cause of cancer. As it turns out, exposure to various airborne pollutants can also cause several other health problems.

Thus, a team of researchers now say that, according to their investigations, being exposed to elevated levels of air pollution for even a short period of time can translate into irregular heartbeat, maybe even lung blood clots.

While researching the impact of air pollution on public health, the specialists looked at information concerning air pollution levels, hospital admissions, and meteorological conditions in England and Wales.

For the period of time between 2003 and 2009, as many as 400,000 heart attacks, 2 million emergency admissions for cardiovascular problems, and 600,000 deaths resulting from heart attack or stroke were linked to average air concentrations of pollutants.

As detailed by EurekAlert, the average air pollution concentrations linked to these instances of heart attacks, cardiovascular problems, and stroke- or heart attack-related deaths were documented during fairly short periods of just 5 days.

What's interesting is that, according to the specialists behind this research project, the link between short-term exposure to various air pollutants and an increased stroke or heart attack risk is not exactly strong or all that clear.

The link between exposure to fine particulate matter and an increased risk for irregular heartbeat and lung blood clots, on the other hand, appears to be surprisingly strong, information made available to the public says.

What's more, even short-term exposure to a certain air pollutant, i.e. nitrogen dioxide, appears to make one more likely to experience cardiovascular problems – heart failure included – and suffer a type of heart attack known as non-ST elevation.

In light of these findings, it has been concluded that, at least for the time being, there is no evidence that being exposed to air pollution for short periods of time can make one more vulnerable to a heart attack or a stroke.

However, it appears that irregular heartbeat and lung blood clots are likely to occur even in people who only breathe in fine particulate matter for a short while, the specialists who carried out this research project argue.

Fine particulate matter is a major component of outdoor air pollution, and previous studies have shown it to be a noteworthy threat to public health. Thus, fine particulate matter is now considered to be carcinogenic to humans, which means it is in the same category as tobacco smoke, UV radiation, and radioactive chemicals.

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