Exposure to particulate matter may have a detrimental impact on cardiovascular health by activating the production of inflammatory cells in the bone marrow, according to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).
The researchers looked at 503 patients without cardiovascular disease or cancer who had undergone imaging tests at MGH for various medical reasons.
The scientists then estimated the participants’ annual average particulate matter (PM2.5) levels using data obtained from the U.S Environment Protection Agency’s air quality monitors located closest to each participant’s residential address.
Over a median follow-up of 4.1 years, 40 individuals experienced major cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes, with the highest risk seen in participants with higher levels of PM2.5 at their home address.
Their risk was elevated even after accounting for cardiovascular risk factors and other socioeconomic factors.
Imaging tests assessing the state of internal organs and tissues showed that these participants also had higher bone marrow activity, indicating a heightened production of inflammatory cells.
Co-author of the study, Shady Abohashem, said: ‘The pathway linking air pollution exposure to cardiovascular events through higher bone marrow activity and arterial inflammation accounted for 29% of the relationship between air pollution and cardiovascular disease events.
‘These findings implicate air pollution exposure as an underrecognized risk factor for cardiovascular disease and suggest therapeutic targets beyond pollution mitigation to lessen the cardiovascular impact of air pollution exposure.’
Michael Osborne, MD, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital added: ‘Importantly, most of the population studied had air pollution exposures well below the unhealthy thresholds established by the World Health Organization, suggesting that no level of air pollution can truly be considered safe.’
In related news, the World Heart Federation (WHF), American College of Cardiology (ACC), American Heart Association (AHA) and European Society of Cardiology (ESC) have released a joint statement urging the medical community and health authorities to mitigate the impact of air pollution on people’s health.
Long-term exposure to air pollution has also been to an increased risk of death from Covid-19. This dangerous ‘triple threat’ of air pollution, Covid-19 and cardiovascular disease should be taken seriously, warn major health authorities.
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