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New Study Links Air Quality and Coronary Health

January 22, 2014
Environmental Protection

smog towersResearch published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has shown that exposure to particulate matter in the air increases the chances of heart attacks and unstable angina.

Scientists at the University of Utrecht looked at elven groups participating in the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE) involving more than 100,000 people in five European countries, collecting data over a twelve year period. The conclusion was that a five microgram/m3 increase in the estimated annual level of PM2.5 was associated with a 13% increase in the risk of heart attacks and angina. Results took into account other risk factors for heart disease such as smoking and social deprivation.

The current European Union standard for PM2.5 is 25 micrograms/m3, almost twice the level set in the United States. Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said that the research “demonstrates how air pollution increases the risk of heart attack even within the currently accepted European pollution limits. This strongly supports the view that public health measures to reduce pollution even further will have significant health benefits. Although it is not widely appreciated, the greatest health consequence of air pollution is now recognised as cardiovascular disease.”

Recent research carried out for the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs concluded that there was no safe level of PM2.5.

Exposure to ambient particulates is estimated to cause 3.2 million deaths worldwide every year.