Air pollution may trigger heart attack, Yale study finds
Even a few hours' exposure to ambient ultrafine particles common in air pollution may potentially trigger a nonfatal heart attack, according to new research by the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Myocardial infarction 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.
UFP constitute 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. The lack of consistent findings across epidemiological studies may be in part because of the different size ranges and exposure metrics examined to characterize ambient UFP exposure.
The authors were interested in 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. 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.
"This represents an important step toward understanding the appropriate indicator of ultrafine particles exposure in determining the short-term health effects, as the effects of particle length and surface concentrations were stronger than the ones of particle number concentration and remained similar after adjustment for other air pollutants," said Kai Chen, PhD, assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health and the study's first author, in a statement. "Our future analyses will examine the combined hourly exposures to both air pollution and extreme temperature. We will also identify vulnerable subpopulations regarding pre-existing diseases and medication intake."