Air pollution may trigger small heart attacks in hours

In a new study, researchers found that even a few hours’ exposures to ambient ultrafine particles common in air pollution may potentially trigger a nonfatal heart attack.

The finding confirms that air pollution’s tiny particles can play a role in serious heart disease. This is particularly true within the first few hours of exposure.

The research was conducted by a team at Yale University and elsewhere.

Heart attack is a major form of cardiovascular disease worldwide.

Ultrafine particles (UFP) are 100 nanometers or smaller in size. In urban areas, automobile emissions are the primary source of UFP.

The team examined whether transient UFP exposure could trigger heart attacks and whether alternative metrics such as particle length and surface area concentrations could improve the investigation of UFP-related health effects.

They examined data from a registry of all nonfatal MI cases in Augsburg, Germany. The study looked at more than 5, 898 nonfatal heart attack patients between 2005 and 2015.

The individual heart attacks were compared against air pollution UFP data on the hour of the heart attack and adjusted for a range of additional factors, such as the day of the week, long-term time trend and socioeconomic status.

According to the team, UFP constitutes a health risk due to their small size, large surface areas per unit of mass, and their ability to penetrate the cells and get into the blood system.

Their future analyses will examine the combined hourly exposures to both air pollution and extreme temperature.

They will also identify vulnerable people regarding pre-existing diseases and medication intake.

The lead author of the study is Kai Chen, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health.

The study is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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