Four new medical studies highlight the risk of air pollution even at levels considered “moderate” by EPA. These studies point to the need for more stringent air pollution standards to protect our heart and brain.
Air Pollution Spikes Bump Up MI Risk, MedPage Today, 2/14/2012
Since the 1990s, many epidemiological studies have demonstrated associations between air pollution levels and human health in terms of hospital admissions and overall mortality, including respiratory or cardiovascular mortality. For each short-term increment of 10 µg/m3 of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and PM 10 and PM 2.5 particulates, risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) for exposed individuals went up by 1% to 2.5% (P<0.01 for each), according to a meta-analysis of 34 studies. Source: Mustafic, H et al “Main air pollutants and myocardial infarction a systematic review and meta-analysis” JAMA 2012; 307: 713-721.
Air pollution tied to stroke, memory loss, Rueters Health, 2/13/2012
A pair of studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found a higher risk of stroke after “moderate” compared to “good” air quality days in Boston-area residents and documented a faster long-term decline in thinking and memory skills in women living in higher-pollution areas of the United States. Listen to Jennifer Weuve, MPH, describe these two studies on “Science Friday” 2/17/2012.
Using data from a local air pollution monitoring station, the team led by Gregory A. Wellenius found that the risk of having a stroke was 34 percent higher in the 24 hours after “moderate” EPA pollution readings compared to “good” pollution days. Source: Wellenius, G et al “Ambient Air Pollution and the Risk of Acute Ischemic Stroke” Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(3):229-234.
In the other study, researchers led by Jennifer Weuve, MPH, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago analyzed a series of cognitive tests given to close to 20,000 women, mostly in their 70s. More air pollution was tied to faster rates of cognitive decline. The difference in thinking and memory skills between women with some of the highest and lowest exposures was similar to a year or two of age-related decline. Source: Weuve, J et al “Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution and Cognitive Decline in Older Women” Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(3):219-227.
A fourth study further connects secondhand smoke and mental impairment: Chen, R et al Passive Smoking and Risk of Cognitive Impairment in Women Who Never Smoke, Archives of Internal Medicine, 2/13/2012.