TUESDAY, Jan. 4, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- The role that air pollution plays in heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) that can cause sudden death may be underestimated, according to researchers.
A small study of 25 healthy people without heart disease found detectable changes in the heart's electrical system when the participants were exposed to polluted air.
The findings suggest that air pollution may interfere with the heart's ability to reset its electrical properties in an orderly manner, said the researchers. This can lead to arrhythmias, which can cause sudden cardiac death in some people.
The fact that air pollution can have this effect on healthy people indicates that people with heart disease may be at even greater risk from air pollution than previously believed, the study authors said.
They called for more research into the link between air pollution and arrhythmias, along with greater physician awareness and participation in efforts to increase public knowledge about the danger and to reduce air pollution.
The study appears in the Jan. 11 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has more about air pollution and cardiovascular disease.