AIR pollution from traffic changes the structure of the heart, helping to explain why car fumes are so lethal, according to new scientific evidence.
American researchers have found a link between vehicle emissions and the size of the heart’s right chamber, or ventricle, which pumps oxygenated blood into the lungs. Enlarged right ventricles are known to raise the risk of heart attacks.
The findings of the study, the first to investigate the relationship between traffic pollution and the right ventricle, were published yesterday in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
The World Health Organisation’s Global Burden of Disease project has found urban outdoor air pollution, much of it from vehicles, kills about 1.3 million people a year. Car fumes contribute to coronary heart disease, which kills more than five times as many people as road accidents.
Analysing data from a 16-year study, the new report found elevated exposure to nitrogen dioxide was associated with a 5 per cent increase in right ventricular mass. The relationship persisted after the researchers had taken into account other risk factors, including people’s socio-economic status.
Air pollution exposure is difficult to estimate, and the findings do not prove car emissions cause the right heart to swell. But lead author Peter Leary of the University of Washington in Seattle, said the study strongly suggested a relationship.
Source: The Australian
Comment: The thin end of a very big wedge?
There has long been a debate about coronary heart disease – and vascular disease in general – as to whether it is the more popular cholesterol argument (so placing the ’cause’ back on the patient’s habits) or a toxic issue (that leads to environmental concerns… a bigger problem and one not the patient’s ‘fault’).
Our position is that the latter is the more serious concern, and probably precedes the cholesterol argument, if we are looking for a ’cause’. This evidence supports this position from one particular environmental angle.
We also support healthy nutrition, free of actual or potential toxic loads, and a healthy home environment. Maybe this is the least we can do, whilst continuing to explore the wider environmental concerns with respect to health – a potential tidal wave and probably one reason looking at it too closely meets with all kinds of resistance.