Air Pollution Found to Cause Heart Problems

Air Pollution Found to Cause Heart Problems


Air PollutionAir pollution has been found to cause heart problems in addition to lung infections. A 10-year study was carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and funded by the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution. A sample population in the United States found that exposure to air pollution increased the hardening of the coronary arteries; a condition known as atherosclerosis, which leads to heart attack. The study was lead by Professor Joel Kaufman of the University of Washington.

A study published in The Lancet has given a rare insight into the direct link between air pollution and heart diseases. The research was carried out among 5843 people from New York City, Baltimore, St Paul, Winston, Salem and Los Angeles. The racial distribution of this sample was 39 percent white, 27 percent Black, 22 percent Latino and 12 percent Chinese.The research concentrated on areas with a high percentage of nitrogen dioxide and black carbon in the air. CT was then used to scan calcium deposits and particle parts in the arteries over time. Increased hardening of coronary arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis was found in exposed people.It is the first time air pollution has been found to cause heart problems.

The dangers of air pollution to people’s health is becoming more pronounced in recent years because of industrialization. The amount of traffic in London has increased ten fold since 1950. Reports show that about 9400 people die from air pollution-related diseases in the U.K. every year. London labor mayor, Sadiq Khan, wants road tax and a diesel scrappage scheme to aid the fight against air pollution. Air pollution related diseases are more prevalent among young people and those with respiratory problems in the U.K. The U.K. government has failed to keep up with EU levels in reducing air pollution. Experts believe that it can take up to 2030 for the U.K. to reach the EU levels.

Environmental lawyers in the U.K. have taken the government to court in order to force them to reduce air pollution.The lawyers have found an eager supporter in Sadiq Khan who said the country needs to take drastic measures to make the breathing air in major cities such as London clean. The mayor is also appealing to George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer) to give more cash to the City Hall and powers over road tax to tackle toxic air blighting the capital. The move from petrol cars to diesel cars in the last fifteen years has been good for business but not for people’s health. The number of diesel cars in the U.K. in 2000 was about 14 percent, and this has risen to 50 percent in the last fifteen years. The petrol to diesel move straddled carbon dioxide for nitrogen dioxide and fumes particles.

The financial cost of air pollution to the U.K. is massive. Estimations put the cost at $29 billion (U.S.) per year and pressure on the National Health Service (NHS). These estimates paint a gloomy picture on the air pollution levels of most cities in the U.K. Air pollution is not a U.K. problem only, it is a world problem, especially among the most industrialized countries like the US, China, Japan and more. Commitments by major powers (US and China) in 2014 to reduce air pollution was one of the biggest achievements of President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. It remains to be seen if these verbal commitments are going to bear any practical fruits.

This study shows what had been feared all along, the link between air pollution and heart problems. Solving this problem requires both international and local efforts. Local efforts are more specific, and they produce quicker results, and international efforts take the time to be effective but when they are entrenched they solve the problem efficiently.Air pollution is also linked to global warming and climate change. The issue of climate change has always been a thorny topic around the world, and it is something which needs more discussions and deliberations.

By Tinyiko Chauke


grist: Air pollution is a real heartbreaker No, really
Eveningstandard: Sadiq Khan wants road tax power and diesel scrappage scheme to aid fight against pollution (EveningStandard)
Global Manufacturing: How can manufacturing reduce air pollution? (Manufacturing Global)

Image Courtesy of David Holt’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License