HEART DISEASE: Studies Link Air Pollution, Sudden Heart Attack
Moderate amounts of air pollution found in many U.S. cities can trigger sudden death in people with existing heart problems, the Los Angeles Times reports. Supported by more than a dozen studies, the new finding dispels outmoded theories that touted lung disease as the most serious medical threat related to air pollution. While research still pinpoints air pollution as a cause of lung problems, the danger to the heart poses a greater "overall threat to public health" because of the large number of people afflicted with heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for nearly half of all deaths in the United States each year. In the Los Angeles area, where residents breathe some of the worst concentrations of "ultra-fine particulates" -- tiny soot particles released through diesel truck exhaust -- the threat is even more alarming. The new research shows that changes in heart rhythm from breathing particle pollution, which may not affect a healthy person, could have "deadly consequences" for someone with heart disease. According to experts, particulate pollution may spur 1% of heart disease fatalities nationwide, accounting for nearly 10,000 deaths per year. "[P]articulate-related death is a serious public health problem -- more serious than any other pollutant," USC medical professor Dr. Henry Gong, a leading expert on the effects of air pollution, said (Cone, 6/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.