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Entries in Pollutants (3)

Tuesday
May152012

Beijing Olympics Show Air Pollution-Heart Attack Link

Top Photo Group/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Eat healthy. Exercise. Don’t smoke. These are all tips we’ve heard on ways to reduce the risk of heart attacks and blood clots. But most people would never think air pollution can increase their risk.

A study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that a drop in air pollution levels during the 2008 Beijing Olympics was linked to decreased risk factors for heart problems, stroke and blood clots there.

Authors of the research attributed the improved air in China’s capital to a decreased amount of traffic in normally congested areas during this time. Two weeks after the Olympics, the air pollution returned to its normally high levels -- and so did the risk factors in Beijing’s inhabitants.

While previous research has suggested such a link, “this study is different because it is the first study to show how air pollution affects young and healthy hearts,” said Junfeng Zhang, professor of environmental and global health at the University of Southern California and one of the authors. “It also shows how our body responds rapidly to changes in pollution.”

In separate research, Dr. Tim Nawrot, associate professor at Hasselt University in Belgium, led a 50-year review of the literature on the relationship between heart attacks and air pollution. His findings also supported the link between air pollution and heart disease -- and he believes the impact can even be quantified.

“On a population level, our study found that air pollution is comparable to other triggers for heart attacks such as using cocaine, stress, physical exertion, and excess coffee or alcohol,” Nawrot said. “Actually, we can say that at a population level, five percent of heart attacks are triggered by air pollution.”

In light of the growing body of research, major organizations such as the American Heart Association are taking notice.

“Previously we thought that air pollution affects only the lungs but there is a huge body of evidence that suggests air pollution synergizes with other risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and hypertension to increase the risk of having a heart attack,” said  Dr. Sanjay Rajagopalan, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Ohio State University and a member of the heart association’s  Scientific Statement Committee. “In and of itself, air pollution is a weak factor, but in conjunction with other risk factors, it can amplify the risk for heart attacks.”

So what can be done in light of Tuesday’s study? Zhang suggests greater use of public transportation and not going outdoors when levels of air pollution are high.

Rajagopalan said people should focus on the things they can control, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking.  He also suggests avoiding nonessential travel to areas that are heavy in air pollution.

Internationally, this would include India, which was found to have the worst air pollution in the entire world, followed by Bangladesh, Pakistan and China. The figures come from the 2012 Yale and Columbia Universities Environmental Performance Index.

According to the American Lung Association, the top 10 polluted U.S. cities in 2012 include:

  1. Bakersfield-Delano, Calif.
  2. Hanford-Corcoran, Calif.
  3. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, Calif.
  4. Visalia-Porterville, Calif.
  5. Fresno-Madera, Calif.
  6. Pittsburgh-New Castle, Pa.
  7. Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz.
  8. Cincinnati-Middletown-Wilmington, Ohio/Ky./Ind.
  9. Louisville-Jefferson County-Elizabethtown-Scottsburg, Ky./Ind.
  10. Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland, Pa./N.J./Del./Md.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar222012

Prenatal Pollutants Linked to Childhood Anxiety, ADHD

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Inner-city women who breathe powerful airborne pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons while pregnant are more likely to have children who develop behavioral problems by the time they reach school age, researchers report.

The findings bolster what's known about the influence of prenatal conditions on later health.

In recent years, scientists have found that in utero exposure to a host of toxins including pesticides, outdoor air pollutants, secondhand tobacco smoke and prescription drugs influence a child's susceptibility to many conditions for years to come.  The brain and nervous system of a fetus, still too immature to eliminate toxins or repair damaged DNA, may be particularly sensitive to these assaults.

The research team behind the latest findings, led by Frederica Perera, director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, previously linked prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from fossil fuels including gasoline, diesel and coal, to impaired fetal growth and development, possible chromosomal changes, developmental delays at age 3 and reduced IQ at age 5.

Their newest study, published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, expands on the previous finding that breathing air fouled by PAHs during pregnancy boosts the risk of giving birth to children with signs of anxiety and depression or ADHD by ages 6 or 7 years.

The scientists knew that PAHs inhaled by the mother can pass through her bloodstream, through the placenta and into the fetus' tissues.  In the new study, they gauged the mothers' exposure by measuring PAH concentrations in home air samples collected during the third trimesters of their pregnancies. 

The scientists assessed how much of those pollutants got into their bodies by measuring blood levels of a chemical formed when PAHs interact with blood cells.  They similarly gauged the newborns' exposure to PAHs by measuring levels of the marker in their umbilical cord blood.

"This study provides evidence that prenatal exposure to environmental PAH at levels encountered in the air of New York City may influence child behavior," the authors wrote.  They said the PAH exposure "could impact cognitive development and the ability to learn."

PAHs are such a ubiquitous component of urban air pollution that air samples for 100 percent of the women contained detectable PAH levels, the researchers reported.  At the same time, 40 percent of the women reported being exposed to second-hand smoke during their pregnancies.

Perera and her colleagues have been following a group of 253 African-American and Dominican women, all non-smokers, living in New York City, who gave birth between 1999 and 2006.  They plan to follow their children to age 12.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct072011

Air Pollution Tied to Premature Births, Study Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Pregnant women who live in areas with high levels of air pollution caused by heavy traffic could be at increased risk for premature births, according to a new study.

Researchers led by Michelle Wilhelm, an assistant professor in residence at the UCLA School of Public Health, found that Southern California women exposed to traffic-related air pollution had a 30 percent higher risk of pre-term birth.

Wilhelm and her colleagues looked at 100,000 births that occurred in Los Angeles County within five miles of stations used by the state to monitor air quality.

Using birth records and specific exposure information provided by the state, they determined that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) -- chemicals found in soot -- were associated with the highest risk of premature births.  They found that traffic was the biggest source of PAHs.

"Even at air pollution levels in Los Angeles which are much lower than in previous decades, we still see adverse birth outcomes that we attribute to traffic-related air toxics," said Dr. Beate Ritz, a co-author and professor of epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health.

"This research fits with a whole body of literature over the past decade that show problems between a woman's exposure to pollution and pregnancy and subsequent health of the baby," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.  Landrigan was not involved in the California research.

The study also found that other chemicals, such as ammonium nitrate and benzene, were also associated with an increased risk of premature birth, but to a lesser extent.

Babies and children exposed to certain pollutants are known to be more susceptible to health problems.

"It's known that when pollutants get into pregnant women and their baby, they disrupt the metabolism of the baby," said Landrigan. "Infants exposed to air pollution are at higher risk for asthma, respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)."

The authors said other factors could be contributing to the risk of premature births in these women.  The women living in the affected areas were more likely to be Hispanic, born outside the U.S., lower-income and have government health insurance.  Because they used birth data, the researchers were unable to control for the effects of smoking as well.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio