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Traffic Pollution May Increase Risk of Heart Trouble

Prolonged exposure boosted levels of inflammation, clotting activity

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 8, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Long hours of exposure to vehicle pollution may increase your risk of such cardiovascular problems as thrombosis, inflammation and irregular heart rhythm, says a study of North Caroline state troopers.

Researchers analyzed pollution particles less than 2.5 micrometers in size collected from inside the patrol cars of nine young male troopers. Pollution particles this size can find their way deep inside the lungs.

The researchers identified numerous kinds of these small particles, including silicon and aluminum from road surfaces, and iron, chromium and titanium produced by wear and tear of mechanical automotive parts. There were also benzene and gas carbon monoxide particles from gasoline combustion and particles containing copper, sulphur and aldehydes.

The troopers' heart rates were measured before and after their shifts and blood samples were collected from them after each shift to monitor inflammation and clotting.

The study found that pollution from variable-speed traffic had the biggest impact on the cardiovascular health of the troopers. Driving in variable-speed traffic was linked to an increase in inflammatory cells and proteins, activation of clotting pathways, more variable heart rhythm, and an increase in red blood cell volume.

The researchers said identifying which specific pollutant particles cause these health effects would require much larger or targeted toxicological studies.

The study appears in the current issue of Particle and Fibre.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about air pollution and your health.

SOURCE: BioMed Central, news release, Dec. 8, 2004
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