Urban Smog Tough on Young Adults' Hearts

FRIDAY Aug. 17, 2007 -- Dirty urban air drags down a number of "biological indicators" pointing to heart risk in young adults, a Taiwanese study shows.

The indicators include autonomic dysfunction, inflammation, oxidative stress, and blood coagulation, according to the study, which was published Aug. 15 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"This study provides evidence that urban air pollution is associated with systemic inflammation/oxidative stress, impairment of the fibrinogenic system, activation of blood coagulation and alterations in the autonomic nervous system in young, healthy humans," wrote study lead author Chang-Chuan Chan of the National Taiwan University's College of Public Health.

Chan's team collected blood samples and performed electrocardiograms on 76 healthy college students once a month for three months. They compared the results to data from an air pollution monitoring station located on the students' campus.

They found that increased exposure to common air pollutants was associated with a significant rise in all biological markers of cardiovascular risk.

The study did not look at the precise biological mechanisms involved in this association.

"Further studies with more detailed measurements of cardiovascular endpoints over time are still needed," Chan noted.

"Most pollution literature has shown effects in elderly people, and although there have been experiments in young subjects, epidemiological research has not found such significant effects in young people as with these students in Taiwan," Dr. Benoit Nemery, professor in the division of pneumonology at the Catholic University of Leuvin in Belgium, said in a prepared statement. Nemery was not involved in the study.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about the health effects of air pollution.

Posted: August 2007


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