WEDNESDAY, Nov. 12, 2008 (Health.com) — Inhaling air pollution during your daily routine—both inside and outside your home—appears to cause a small rise in blood pressure and have an impact on blood vessel function, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans.
These short-term changes may help explain why long-term exposure to air pollution is linked to a greater risk of heart attack and death due to heart disease.
The researchers looked specifically at particulate matter, a type of air pollution that is smaller than 2.5 microns. (A human hair, by comparison, has a diameter of about 100 microns.) These tiny particles can be inhaled deep in the lungs and are more dangerous than larger particles, which tend to be trapped in the nose or upper airways and sneezed or coughed out of the body.
“Clearly the air pollution that you are exposed to on a regular basis affects your blood vessel function and puts you at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Robert Bard, a research associate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
In a three-year study, which was part of a larger Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analysis, Bard and his colleagues asked 65 men and women from Detroit to wear an air-pollution-sensing vest for five consecutive days in the summer and five consecutive days in the winter. (The volunteers did take the vest off while sleeping and showering, but were told to place it nearby).