Two studies find links between small increases in air pollution and a heightened risk of heart failure and lung cancer
Small increases in air pollution levels can increase the risk of heart failure and lung cancer, according to two medical studies.
Funded by charity British Heart Foundation (BHF) and published in medical journal The Lancet, the first study looked at data from 12 countries and nearly four million heart failure patients.
found links between daily increases in air pollutants – such as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter PM10 and PM2.5 – and heart failure hospitalisations or heart failure mortality, although no link was found with increases in ozone levels.
The impact on heart failure was greatest for particulate matter found in diesel exhaust fumes. As a result, the researchers estimate that reducing levels of particulate matter concentrations would increase life expectancy in the UK by 7-8 months.
In the USA, researchers said, an average reduction in concentrations of PM2.5 of 3.9 micrograms per cubic metre in the country would prevent 7978 heart failure hospitalisations and save a third of a billion US dollars each year.
Researcher at the University of Edinburgh Dr Anoop Shah, who led the BHF study, said: “We already know that air pollution is associated with an increased risk of having a heart attack. Our study suggests that air pollution also affects patients with heart failure. We found a strong association between exposure to air pollution and admission to hospital with heart failure or death from heart failure.â€?
In the UK, more than 750,000 people currently suffer from heart failure, which accounts for around one million hospital patient bed days each year, according to the BHF.
Joseph Clift, policy manager at the BHF said: “Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are living each day with the impact of heart failure. This study reveals air pollution could be making these already vulnerable people even more unwell.
“It’s vital that the UK government meets European Commission targets to improve air quality. The benefit would not only be felt by heart failure patients, but – by reducing the cost to the NHS – our economy too.â€?
The second study, also published in The Lancet, was funded by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme and looked at air pollution and lung cancer incidence in nine European countries.
The analysis found a ‘significant association’ between risk for lung cancer and particulate matter PM10 and PM2.5. However, the results showed no association between lung cancer and nitrogen dioxide.
The University of Edinburgh’s Dr Nicholas Mills, of the BHF Centre for Cardiovascular Science, commented: “Since the entire population is exposed to air pollution, even modest reductions in air pollution could have major cardiovascular health benefits and substantial healthcare cost savings.â€?