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Wildfires Can Trigger Acute Coronary Events for Miles Around

Strongest association seen for men and people 65 and older

THURSDAY, July 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Wildfires create air pollution that fuels the risk for cardiovascular events, especially in older adults, researchers report in the July issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.

For the study, researchers used data from the Victoria health registry during the wildfire period, from December 2006 to January 2007. Towns and cities are widely separated in Victoria, a state in southeast Australia of more than 87,800 square miles. During those two months, smoke reached cities far from the fires. On most days, levels of fine-particulate air pollutants were higher than recommended limits, the researchers found.

Hospitalizations for ischemic heart disease rose 1.86 percent and emergency department visits increased more than 2.07 percent, the researchers reported. Men and people 65 and older were most at risk for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (9.05 and 7.25 percent, respectively). While the researchers only found an association between pollution levels and acute coronary events, they said the tiny particles of air pollution from the fires are the likely culprit.

Constant exposure to air pollution has been tied to cardiovascular events before. But pollution from wildfires is unique in that it is very intense but only for a short time, lead researcher Anjali Haikerwal, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, told HealthDay. "The exposure patterns are different, and we need more research to determine which is more harmful."

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