Studies have linked air pollution with the risk of developing a range of conditions, from
neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's to diabetes and
atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries.
Lead author, Meng Wang, has carried out this research in China. Wang and team set out to
examine whether air pollution and proximity to traffic" correlate with coronary artery calcium
the score, a key marker of atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of plaque inside the artery walls, which, over time, may lead
to serious cardiovascular conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and heart
Wang and the team published their findings in the journal JAMA Network Open.
Wang and colleagues examined data on 8,867 Chinese people aged between 25 and 92 years.
The participants all had suspected coronary heart disease, and the team recruited them in
The researchers assessed the coronary artery calcium and coronary heart disease score of each
participant and excluded anyone who had had a myocardial infarction, stenting procedure, or
coronary artery bypass surgery in the past. They also excluded those for whom the data on risk
factors and exposure to pollution were insufficient.
Wang and team estimated the annual levels of pollution at the participants' residences by
calculating their nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and fine particulate matter levels using a standard
geostatistical prediction model.
This may mean that the study was not done on the ground, and may not have been done using
accurate metrics. It may need to be redone.
In this case, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) describes particles with an aerodynamic diameter
smaller than 2.5 micrometers that are very easy to inhale.
Particulate matter, or particle pollution, refers to a mixture of solid particles and liquid
droplets," including dust, dirt, soot, or smoke," that can be present in the air and that a person
cannot see with the naked eye.
In the new study, the researchers also estimated the participants' proximity to traffic, looking at
the distance of their residences from nearby roads. What this would have to do with pollution in
a city where everyone uses bikes and scooters makes me think that this study was done in
Beijing, the only place where the people who own cars in China live.
The research revealed that for each nitrogen dioxide increase of 20 micrograms per cubic meter
(μg/m3), the risk of a high coronary artery calcium score rose by 24.5%.
Additionally, for each increase of 30 μg/m3 of PM2.5 that the participants had exposure to in
their apartments, there was an increase of 27.2% in the coronary artery calcium score.
This finding should contribute to an understanding of air pollutant effects worldwide, providing
both much-needed, locally generated data and supporting evidence to inform the air pollution
standard-setting process on a global scale," comments Wang. This study may provide evidence
that coronary atherosclerosis is a pathological pathway through which air pollution exposure
increases the risk of death from coronary heart disease."
The lead author goes on to explain: Atherosclerosis is a lifelong process. As such, the effects of
air pollution exposure on atherosclerosis are likely to be chronic.Since more than 40% of all deaths are attributable to cardiovascular disease, the potential
contribution of air pollutants to cardiovascular disease in China is very large," says the
researcher, suggesting that the current air pollution standard may need to be reevaluated."
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