Cardiovascular Disease, Diseases September 4th, 2008
A four year study of 11.5 million Medicare enrollees have shown that shown that short-term exposure to fine particle air pollution from sources such as motor vehicle exhaust and power plant emissions significantly increases the risk for cardiovascular and respiratory disease among people over 65 years of age. The study conducted to show the link between fine particle air pollution and hospital admissions for heart and lung –related diseases was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a component of the National Institutes of Health and is the largest of its kind.
The findings revealed that small increases in fine particle air pollution resulted in increased hospital admissions for heart and vascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure and respiratory infection. Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. of National Institutes of Health said that “study participants over 75 years of age experienced even greater increases in admissions for heart problems and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than those between 65 and 74 years of age.
The study results are published in the March 8, 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to the study, these findings indicate an ongoing threat from airborne particles to the health of the elderly and hence there is a need to set a national air quality standard that is as protective of their health as possible.
“These findings also provide evidence that fine particle concentrations well below the national standard are harmful to the cardiovascular and respiratory health of our elderly citizens. As the association between inhaled particles and adverse health effects has been established, we must concentrate on understanding why these particles are harmful, and how these effects can be prevented.
Fine particle air pollution consists of microscopic particles of dust and soot less than 2.5 microns in diameter – about thirty times smaller than the width of a human hair. These tiny particles primarily come from power plant emissions, motor vehicle exhaust and other operations that involve the burning of fossil fuels. Fine particles can go deep into the respiratory tract, reducing lung function and severe conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.