Exposure to Air Pollution Particles Linked with Non-fatal Heart Attacks: Study

A new analysis suggests that transient exposure to air pollution particles can trigger onset myocardial infarction.

The paper, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, focused on a patient population in Augsburg, Germany. The research team, investigating the relationship between different particulate measurements (such as particle number [PNC], particle length [PLC], and surface area [PSC]) and myocardial infarction (MI) on an hourly timescal, collected pollution data from background monitoring sites, as will as hourly nonfatal MI cases from a registry in Augsburg, for a ten-year period between 2005 and 2015, conducting a time-stratified case-crossover analysis to tease out any association between hourly particle metrics and cases of MI. They also conducted a separate analysis looking at independent effects of certain metrics (including different sizes and types) of the particles.

Particle Metrics Associated with Heart Attacks

The authors reported a total of nearly 6,000 cases of non-fatal MI (n=5,898) during the study period. According to their results, the analyses showed similar associations across all particle metrics during the first six to 12 hours of measurement. In particular, interquartile range increases in PNC particle measurements within the size range of 10100nm, PLC, and PSC were linked with an increase of MI six hours later by 3.27% [95% CI, 0.27 to 6.37], 5.71% (95% CI, 1.79 to 9.77), and 5.84% (95% CI, 1.04 to 10.87), respectively. The authors also reported associations for the number of particles and MI for the size ranges of 1030nm10–30 nm and 100500nm.

“This study confirms something that has long been suspected—air pollution’s tiny particles can play a role in serious heart disease,” first author Kai Chen, PhD, assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health, said in a press release. “This is particularly true within the first few hours of exposure. Elevated levels of UFP are a serious public health concern.”