In a new study, researchers found that exposure to ambient ozone may accelerate arterial conditions that could develop into heart disease and stroke.
It’s the first study showing that ozone may advance injuries in the artery walls.
It suggests that ozone may be a big risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
The research was conducted by a team from University at Buffalo.
Previous research has shown that ground-level ozone can cause serious health problems, such as lung diseases.
In the study, the team examined nearly 7,000 people aged 45 to 84 from six U.S. regions: Winston-Salem, North Carolina; New York City; Baltimore; St. Paul, Minnesota; Chicago; and Los Angeles.
Participants were enrolled in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and have been followed for over a decade.
The team focused on atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque or fatty deposits in the artery walls. It can cause blood clots and lead to a heart attack or stroke.
The study found that long-time exposure to ozone was linked to thickening of the main artery that supplies blood to the head and neck.
It also revealed a higher risk of carotid plaque, which is a later stage of arterial injury that occurs when there’s widespread plaque buildup in the innermost two layers of an artery wall.
The team said particle pollution comes from a variety of human and natural activities, including vehicle exhaust and fossil fuel burning. Smog is a harmful byproduct of such activities.
That shouldn’t be confused with the ozone layer in Earth’s upper atmosphere, which shields people from much of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
Future work needs to find out the biological mechanism for this association.
The lead author of the study is Meng Wang, assistant professor of epidemiology and environmental health.
The study is published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
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