Research led by Imperial College London will look at whether air pollution in Oxford Street has adverse effect on heart and lungs
A study to investigate how air pollution might affect lungs and blood vessels is to be carried out by scientists at Imperial College London.
Funded by the British Heart Foundation, the experiment sees both healthy volunteers and participants with heart or lung disease tested for lung function and arterial stiffness, before being escorted to Oxford Street in London.
Once there, volunteers spend two hours walking along the busy road while a researcher monitors pollution levels with a portable kit. They then return to the hospital where the tests are conducted once more to observe any changes.
In June, Oxford Street was named as one of the most polluted roads in London for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, according data released by the Mayor of London (see airqualitynews.com story).
The test is repeated in Hyde Park on another day using the same methodology, so that scientists can compare the two sets of results.
It is hoped that the study will determine whether exposure to airborne particles, particularly those produced in diesel exhaust, can make arteries stiffer and impair lung function. It is a theory that has not been tested outside the laboratory until now.
Leading the study, Dr Rudy Sinharay from Imperial College Londonâ€™s National Heart and Lung Institute said: â€œIf we find that air pollution has a harmful effect on people with these conditions, we would be inclined to advise our patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart disease to avoid areas with high air pollution.
â€œThe London Assembly might also consider whether the findings would inform strategies to further control air pollution and emissions to reduce the risks that may be associated with chronic disease.â€
It is thought some three million people have COPD in the UK, a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. An estimated 2.7 million suffer from coronary heart disease.
The study is also being led by Imperial College London professors Fan Chung, Paul Cullinan and Peter Collins. It is part of a collaboration with Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and the Environmental Research Group at Kingâ€™s College London.
The investigation follows a study published in the Environmental Research Letters journal, which claimed approximately 2.1 million deaths a year worldwide are associated with particulate PM2.5-related diseases, with a further 470,000 caused by ozone (see airqualitynews story).