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Science Wednesday:OnAir: Particle Pollution Causes Cardiovascular Disease, says EPA, American Heart Association

2010 May 26

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

Congressional staff, physicians, members of industry, and the public health community gathered on Friday, May 21 at the inaugural   Air Science 40 briefing, an event co-sponsored by EPA, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the House Committee on Science and Technology in recognition of the 40th anniversary of EPA air pollution research.

At the seminar, leading scientists presented evidence that air pollution causes cardiovascular disease and death.

The news that air pollution impacts the heart may have been new to some, but for others it served as official affirmation of a scientific link that researchers have been building a case toward for several years.

Dr. Robert Brook, physician and researcher of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Michigan, presented an official AHA statement that emphasized the “causal relationship between PM2.5 exposure and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.”

Brook is lead author of the statement, which was produced by a large panel of scientific experts after an in-depth evaluation of the breadth of current scientific literature on the health impacts of air pollution.

Brook noted that the AHA statement panel reached consensus on the causal relationship between particulate matter and cardiovascular health independently from EPA, which reached a similar conclusion in its most recent Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter (PM).

Dr. C. Arden Pope III, economist and environmental epidemiology researcher at Brigham Young University and co-author of the AHA statement, presented additional groundbreaking findings on the vast benefits of air pollution regulations to human health.

He shared his landmark 2009 finding that air pollution regulations over the past two decades have increased the average American life expectancy by “a half to a full year,” and discussed an array of other studies on air pollution’s impact on cardiac morbidity and mortality that have proved “reproducible and remarkably robust.”

The AHA statement and supporting science presented by Brook and Pope deems fine particle exposure a “modifiable factor contributing to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” and includes new recommendations to physicians on how to advise patients at high risk for air pollution health effects. The statement offers several practical suggestions for reducing particle exposure and limiting potentially harmful physical activity in relevant cases.

While science to support the link between air pollution and cardiovascular health is constantly evolving and developing, the conclusions presented Friday should be taken seriously, Brook said.

He emphasized one of the concluding sentences in the AHA statement presenting the scientific evidence linking cardiovascular with air pollution, which asserts: “at present, no credible alternative explanation exists.”

About the Author: Becky Fried is a science writer with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. Her OnAir posts are a regular “Science Wednesday” feature.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    May 26, 2010

    Lives are difficulties, and fully challenges….. So, the human hope will stay in heaven. There are happy. There are enjoy and is beloved by The God. Is there any disease ? Maybe ya, maybe no…. The God is correct! If to see, here, the people much prayers and much money or they are poor but much prayers, so both of them, there, have contracted diseases. And finally, in the paradise, the God to allow(?) many people sick….!!!!

  2. crespo permalink
    May 26, 2010

    save earth, save life.

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    May 31, 2010

    Air pollution is a major problem contributing to heart problems, asthma, cancer. Our CaliforniaEPA presented a study late last year or early this year that did show people exposed to air pollution on freeways for 2 hours or more a day had some heart problems as a result and difficulty breathing. People who live near major freeways, ports, railyards seem to be sicker than those who are further away. One CalEPA study showed pregnate women who lived close to busy freeways had more misscarriages than those who didn’t. The big public health problem in air pollution for California is diesel particulates from diesel engines of trucks, locomotives, construction equipment and boats. This is another reason to switch to hydrogen fuel and hybrid hydrogen-electric powered vehicles. I am also very glad you talked about how important air pollution regulations have been to improving and lenghening life. That is a message that absolutely must get out and often. Here, our Clean Air Regulations are under attack by some newspaper editorialists and some conservative talk show hosts as the causes for the state’s economic downturn and if more pollution regulations are put in thousands of jobs will be lost. Thousands of new green jobs will be created but that is another message that is not getting out. So all any one hears about for the most part is how bad air pollution regulations are and how dangerous they are to the economy. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. Jacobson permalink
    July 27, 2010

    It makes sense when we think of the body like a car that air pollution causes heart problems. Almost common sense.

    The pollution that makes it past the air intake “lungs” moves straight into the engine “heart” and into the fuel system “bloodstream”.
    Our lungs were not equipped to deal with air pollution (since air pollution is unnatural).
    The likelihood that the pollution stems beyond the lungs and the heart is a high probability. (As if heart and lung disease were not enough to deal with)

  5. rabbi permalink
    September 22, 2010

    Hi, Thanks such a great information’s really like to read this topic. This is really a well written article about a great project! It’s very useful…

  6. Mylene permalink
    February 27, 2012

    People survive with the help of air. We can survive without food and water for a day or even a week. But we can’t survive without air more than a minute. But, why do people don’t give importance with it? How can we survive for a longer time if the air we breath is not safe at all? Anyway, this post of yours provide awareness to all readers that air pollution can be the reason too for health hazards. I hope people will know its importance before it’s too late. Thank you for sharing,


  7. Anonymous permalink
    May 19, 2012

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  8. Anonymous permalink
    May 21, 2012

    This is valuable info, just wanted to comment and appreciate. I will definately return to check for new stuff. thanks

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