A study has found that air pollution can lead to cardiovascular diseases. Air pollution, and fine dust, in particular, is responsible for more than four million deaths each year. Almost 60 per cent of deaths occur as a result of heart diseases. The large percentage of deaths from cardiovascular disease has prompted an international group of experts from Germany, England, and the USA to analyse the negative effects of air pollution on vascular function in a review article.
Key research questions focused on components of air pollution (particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide) that are particularly damaging to the cardiovascular system and mechanisms that damage the vessels.
Professor Thomas Münzel said, “We are especially worried about ultrafine dust. These particles have the size of a virus. When ultrafine matter is inhaled, it immediately enters the bloodstream through the lungs, is taken up by the vessels, and causes local inflammation.”
“Ultimately, this causes more atherosclerosis (vascular calcification) and thus leads to more cardiovascular diseases such as myocardial infarction, acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and cardiac arrhythmias. Of particular interest is the fact that with regard to the much-discussed diesel exhaust emissions, particulate matter and not nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both of which are produced by burning diesel fuel, have a negative effect on vascular function,” Münzel continued.
“The fine dust particles are chemically formed mainly in the atmosphere from emissions from traffic, industry, and agriculture. In order to achieve low, harmless concentrations, emissions from all these sources need to be reduced,” commented Professor Jos Lelieveld.
The findings have been published in the European Heart Journal.