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Fine particle pollution linked to cardiovascular disease

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 08 February 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:283

As well as being linked to lung function, particulate pollution is associated with cardiovascular disease, particularly in women. An analysis of data from the Women's Health Initiative, a mammoth cohort study of postmenopausal women in the United States, recently found that each 10 µg/m3 increase in concentration of fine particle pollution increased women's risk of a first cardiovascular event by 24% (hazard ratio 1.24 (95% CI 1.09 to 1.41)) and their risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 76% (1.76 (1.25 to 2.47)). The events included strokes, heart attacks, and coronary and cerebrovascular deaths. All were linked to long term exposure to fine particles <2.5 µm across, but not to other environmental pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone. These figures are the most reliable so far, says an editorial (pp 511-3), and the most convincing.

The analysis included 65 893 women living in cities all over the US. None had cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. Nearly 2000 had had a cardiovascular event by the end of the study four years later. The clear association between fine particle pollution (measured from the nearest monitor) and cardiovascular disease was unexplained by poverty, educational level, smoking, or any of the conventional risk factors. It now seems likely that this kind of pollution can cause widespread damage to arteries. We don't know how.


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