Pollution From Cars Can Trigger a Heart Attack

smog and heart attack photo
Photo: Simone Ramella / cc

While the sight of a hazy, smog filled cloud looming over the cityscape is certainly enough to break the heart of any would-be outdoorsman, it turns out that breathing in that pollution just might do so -- quite literally. According to a recently published study from the British Medical Journal, the inhalation of vehicle emissions can actually increase the likelihood of a heart attack, even up to six hours after exposure.Air pollution has previously been linked to a myriad of health complications -- including, but not limited to, a drop in fertility, loss of worker productivity, and even depression. Previous research, and common sense, had indicated that prolonged exposure to air pollution was damaging to the human cardiovascular system, but this may be the first instance in which breathing in airborne particulate matter from cars within a short period of time raised the risk of a potentially deadly heart attack.

To find a correlation between this serious medical emergency and air pollution, researchers from London's School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analyzed nearly 80 thousand heart attack victims and compared the time and location of the attack with records of ambient air pollution maintained by the U.K. National Air Quality Archive.

The study indicates that a small but measurable increase in heart attacks was found to associated with air pollution caused by vehicle traffic -- and the more fossil fuel burning cars are contributing to it, the increased probability only rises. From Time.com:

After controlling for environmental factors like air temperature, humidity and viral infection rates, along with social factors like holidays and day of the week, the researchers found that exposure to high levels of certain components of air pollution -- pollutant particles and nitrogen dioxide, which are a byproduct of car traffic -- was associated with a greater risk of heart attack. The heavier the traffic pollution, the higher the risk of heart attack.

The researchers looked at heart attack risk for 72 hours after exposure to pollution, but found that the risk remained elevated for only six hours.

According The Guardian, ever year exposure to air pollution contributes to the premature deaths of some 29,000 in the UK alone -- which suggests that the global death toll from vehicle emissions is most likely mind-boggling. And, as more research into the harmfull impact that breathing in particulate matter spewed out by cars is having on our bodies, we're bound to attribute more deaths to a lack of clean air.

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More on the Health Effect of Air Pollution
Air Pollution Linked to Brain Damage and Depression
Air Pollution Can Harm Human Reproduction
New Map Shows Air Pollution Throughout the World
Air Pollution Hurts Worker Productivity as Well as Lungs

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