AIR POLLUTION: Central Valley Study Finds Heart Attack Link
"Fine-particle air pollution appears to be linked to heart attack deaths in the Central Valley," according to a new study by the Health Effects Task Force of the American Lung Association of Sacramento. "[T]he study compared results in large databases of mortality and air pollution," the Sacramento Bee reports. The study found "'a strong and consistent association' between particulate matter of 10 microns or less -- a key national pollution standard -- and cardiac mortality." Thomas Cahill, the study's author and a professor at the University of California-Davis, said, "I was a little startled. I did not expect the association to be so strong." Specifically, the study found "[t]he cardiac death rate in Shasta and Butte counties was 30% less than that of Sacramento and Yolo counties, while Tulare and Kern counties in the southern San Joaquin Valley were 23% higher than Sacramento and Yolo." Cahill said, "The tilt from Redding to Bakersfield is pretty dramatic." He noted that "the northern Sacramento Valley enjoys some of the cleanest air in the region while the southern San Joaquin Valley is most polluted." While it is unclear "how particles are directly linked to cardiovascular disease," researchers "suggest particulate pollution may exacerbate respiratory ailments or diminish the lungs' ability to oxygenate blood, increasing demand on the heart."
What's It All About?
The Bee reports that "[t]he study ... is part of a larger effort by the Lung Association to determine whether health studies conducted primarily in eastern, more-industrialized cities are applicable to California." Cahill said, "There was a real question about whether the standards ... based on eastern studies, would be either too little regulation or too much regulation based on California conditions." He added that the study "tells me that local and national efforts to further focus on the effects of fine-particle pollution are warranted and necessary to protect public health" (Cox, 3/19).