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Posted Sun Feb 28 2010: from US News and World Report:
Air Pollution: It's Not Just Your Lungs That Suffer
...research has revealed more about how far air pollution's harms go beyond the respiratory system. "People thought that when we inhale pollutants the lung is the main target, but the lung is surprisingly resilient. It turns out the cardiovascular effects are predominant," says Aruni Bhatnagar, an environmental cardiology researcher at the University of Louisville. One major study, which followed subjects for 16 years, found that people living in cities with higher levels of fine particulates were at greater risk of cardiovascular death. A difference of 10 micrograms per cubic meter increased the risk of dying from ischemic heart disease (narrowed arteries) by 18 percent, arrhythmia by 13 percent, and cardiac arrest by 21 percent, the study revealed. It seems air pollutants incite processes that lead to high blood pressure, blood clotting, and electrical instability in the heart, which can translate into heart attack, stroke, and sudden cardiac death. Even short-term exposure can be hazardous. Research shows spikes in cardiac deaths, emergency room visits, and hospital admissions in the hours and days that follow a spike in cities' levels of particulate matter.
[Read more stories about: airborne pollutants, climate impacts, contamination, ecosystem interrelationships]

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