By Dominick DalSanto
Environmental Technologies Expert, & Author
A new report finds that air pollution is a leading cause of heart attacks worldwide, along with alcohol, drug use and physical exertion.
Triggers such as Sex, anger, marijuana use and chest or respiratory infections can also trigger heart attacks to different extents, the researchers said, but air pollution, particularly in heavy traffic, is the major culprit.
Doctors are always looking at individual factors, but often they fail to take into consideration population-wide factors when researching heart risks. Even so called “low risk” factors, when spread out over such a large percentage of the population, can end up being a major cause. Preventing them is just as vital in the large scope of things, as preventing less common, higher risk factors such as drug abuse.
The study led by Tim Nawrot of Hasselt University in Belgium, and which was published Lancet Journal, was the result of comparing data from 36 separate studies. Then the researchers calculated the relative risk posed by a series of heart attack triggers and their population-attributable fraction (PAF) — in other words the proportion of total heart attacks estimated to have been caused by each trigger.
WHO (The World Health Organization) calls air pollution as “a major environmental risk to health”. According to its own estimates, nearly 2 million premature deaths a year are the result of air pollution.
Across Asia, a recent report published this year found that many major cities in the region exceed the WHO’s air quality standards. That often lethal mixture of pollutants in the air combine to cause nearly 530,00 premature deaths each year.
The largest source of these harmful emissions, are industrial plants and power generation stations that do not employ sufficient pollution control equipment. The most evident type of this pollution, smog, is caused mainly by particulate matter emissions from the burning of coal without first processing the exhaust through the proper dust collection equipment.
While passive smoking was not included in this study, Nawrot said the effects of second-hand smoke were likely to be similar to that of outdoor air pollution, and noted previous research which found that bans on smoking in public places have significantly reduced heart attack rates.
The highest risk PAF was exposure to traffic, followed by physical exertion, alcohol, coffee, air pollution, and then things like anger, sex, cocaine use, smoking marijuana and respiratory infections.