Air Impact to Health – What can particles do to your health?
Air Pollution Can Raise Blood Pressure
Research has begun to show that air pollution can represent a risk to cardiovascular health. A study from Ohio State University found that exposure to air pollution can seriously spike blood pressure. These findings were the first to link air pollution with blood pressure. Another study showed that exposure to air pollution spiked blood pressure even in healthy people. Both studies used everyday levels of air pollution to which Americans are routinely exposed. They indicate that air pollution may significantly impact heart health, with serious consequences for those who already have cardiovascular conditions.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the four most common air pollutants are particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Particulate matter is made of microscopic particles that measure around 2.5 microns; this is less than a tenth of a human hair. These fine particles settle into the furthest reaches of the lungs and may even be able to enter the bloodstream directly. Particulate matter and other airborne pollutants are byproducts of fuel-burning machines like factories and car engines. The World Health Organization estimates that every year, more than 3 million premature deaths can be attributed to air pollution.
Ohio Blood Pressure Study
The OSU study, performed on rats, was the first study to link air pollution with a spike in blood pressure. Researchers placed hypertensive rats in chambers and then exposed them either to filtered air or particulate matter. They were exposed for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 10 weeks. At week 9 the researchers added another pollutant to the mix. They then monitored blood pressure over the following week. The level of air pollution was the same as you'd experience in an area of heavy traffic, such as downtown Manhattan. They found that blood pressure significantly spiked, indicating that a predisposition to high blood pressure could be worsened by air pollution. Co-author Sanjay Rajagopalan noted, We now have even more compelling evidence of the strong relationship between air pollution and cardiovascular disease.
Michigan Blood Pressure Study
Researchers at the University of Michigan then looked at how air pollution affected otherwise healthy humans. In a series of three, two-hour sessions, the subjects were exposed to air pollution that simulated levels found near major roadways. Results of the study showed that exposure to air pollution significantly raised diastolic blood pressure and even impaired the normal function of blood vessels. Researchers were most concerned by the implications for people who have cardiovascular disease; they noted that if you already have heart disease, even this slight increase in blood pressure could trigger a stroke or heart attack. The study was also the first to determine that particulate matter is worse for health than ozone.
HEPA Air Purifiers to Clear the Air
These studies are sobering for those with cardiovascular disease and for those who live near well-travelled roadways. They lead to the question, how can you ensure that you're breathing healthy, clean air? According to the EPA, we take 9 out of every 10 breaths indoors, so indoor air quality is of greatest concern. Thankfully, there is a way to improve the air in your home - HEPA air purifiers. HEPA filters are scientifically-proven to remove 99.97% of airborne particles down to .3 microns in size. The particulate matter studied measures 2.5 microns, which HEPA filters would remove. The implications are clear: if you have a cardiovascular condition or live near major roadways, you need an air purifier in your home. While these groups of people face greater risk, everyone can experience the benefits of improving indoor air quality.