Air Pollution Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Failure

Exposure to air pollution raises the risk of being hospitalized or dying from heart failure, according to a review of past studies that suggests a need for tighter regulation of exhaust fumes and other pollutants.

The danger rose by 3.5 percent with every increase of 1 part per million of carbon monoxide, and by about 2 percent for every increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter, according to the review, published today in The Lancet journal, of 35 previous studies.

Urban outdoor air pollution is estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. While the role of pollution is well recognized as a risk factor for heart attacks, the link to other cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure has until now been less clear, said Nicholas Mills, a cardiologist at the University of Edinburgh and one of the study’s authors.

“The overall evidence shows a positive association between short-term increases in fine particles and the risk of hospitalization and death for congestive heart failure,” Francesco Forastiere and Nera Agabiti of the Lazio Regional Health Service in Rome said in a comment accompanying the article. The authors “provide us with important information on the burden of air pollution on public health.”

Reducing average daily concentrations of particulate matter by 3.9 micrograms per cubic meter would prevent about 8,000 hospitalizations for heart failure every year in the U.S., according to the researchers.

The review was funded by the British Heart Foundation.

Lung Cancer

Separately, an analysis of 17 studies in nine European countries found that for every increase of 5 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, the risk of lung cancer rose by 18 percent. The study, also published in the Lancet, was funded by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme.

“Although smoking is undoubtedly a strong risk factor, evidence for an association between air pollution exposure and lung cancer is also accumulating,” Takashi Yorifuji of Okayama University and Saori Kashima of Hiroshima University said in a comment accompanying the article.

The study supports public policy aimed at reducing particulate matter concentrations from cars and factories to benefit public health, they said.

“Accountability studies that examined potential benefits of air pollution interventions consistently showed that interventions reduced air pollution concentrations and improved health outcomes,” they said.

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