Air Impact to Health – What can particles do to your health?
Air pollution - How it damages the hearts
It seems that with each passing day, a new study is released raising even more concern about the effects of air pollution on our health and well-being. A recent study, whose findings were published in an issue of the journal Hypertension, was conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and appears to make a clearer, more conclusive connection between heart problems and fine particulate air pollution. The findings of this study should be of interest to anyone who breathes air – and serve as a dramatic reminder of why achieving clean, healthy air is so very critical.
About the Study
The study was conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Unlike many previous air pollution studies, though, this one did not involve collecting data from the air around polluted urban areas. Instead, the air that is typically found in such urban areas was reproduced in the lab; participants were then subjected to it and monitored for any changes in their immediate health. The people who agreed to be test subjects, it should be noted, were all very healthy and hailed from either the Ann Arbor area or from Toronto, Ontario.
In this study, the participants were first given clean, pure air to breathe. Next, they were given air that held similar levels of fine particulates commonly found in the air near major freeways in an urban region. Several tests were done on the participants following their exposure to both types of air, and that is where the most significant findings were made. After being subjected to the polluted air, participants’ blood pressure increased by a considerable amount. On top of that, their blood vessels exhibited changes that were quite concerning to researchers. Both of these effects were noted consistently during the study.
The Significance of the Study
In the past, previous studies have never been able to make a clear determination between whether ozone – or fine particulates measuring under 2.5 microns – were more hazardous to people’s health. The University of Michigan study, though, has helped prove that fine particulate pollution is, indeed, more problematic than ozone. Neither thing is good, but fine particulate pollution – as generated by car exhaust, for example – was much more worrisome than ozone. In particular, fine particulate pollution had considerable – and very negative – effects on heart health.
Per the study, fine particulate pollution seemed to trigger two primary responses:
• Changes in the central nervous system – Incredibly, the study showed that when people breathed in fine particulate pollution, changes were triggered in their central nervous system. In this case, the central nervous system switched from controlled, regulated functioning to a fight-or-flight style of operation. When that happens, blood pressure increases – as does the heart rate. It appears that the body reacts this way in response to the foreign particles – in this case, fine particulates – that have entered the body.
• Inflammation – As if the effects to the central nervous system weren’t bad enough, it appears that exposure to fine particulate pollution also triggers inflammation which stiffens the walls of the blood vessels and ultimately weakens them. This reaction was noted within the 24 hours after a person was exposed to dirty air, and can cause major health problems like stroke and heart disease.
What the Study May Mean for You
Considering that the participants in the University of Michigan study were only subjected to fine particulate pollution for a limited, controlled amount of time – and that they still exhibited these major reactions – it is safe to say that by living in polluted urban areas, we may be increasing our risk of heart disease and other problems. The simple act of breathing, then, might be compromising your health.
How air pollution can cause heart disease - http://ur.umich.edu/0910/Sep14_09/06.php