A recent study in people helps to prove the correlation between heart problems and poor air quality, hinting at blood clotting as the cause, according to Nature. Recent research in mice exposed to smog suggests that the immune system starts the process.
The human study's lead author, cardiologist David Newby of the University of Edinburgh, told Nature that people should reconsider exercising outside during bad air days, particularly if they are at risk for heart problems. Newby's work appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In the year 2000, around 800,000 people around the world died from air pollution, many through heart attacks and stroke, according to the World Health Organization. In the animal research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, fume-inhaling mice showed higher levels of several proteins linked to blood clotting. The evidence suggested that an immune response to particles in the lungs caused the inflammation that led to clots. Clots in turn can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
These latest studies add more evidence to what should be painfully obvious: air pollution is an extremely serious problem in much of the world, and is a silent killer of thousands. Asthma rates are exploding across much of the world, particularly in developed countries, and the problem is now the biggest reason for loss of school time. Bad air quality results in millions of dollars in lost productivity, suffering and decreased quality of life.
The issue is coming into strong focus in China, where officials are concerned that Beijing's heavy smog will inhibit the ability of athletes to perform at their best.
It's clear that measures to clean the air should be a high priority for regulators and watchdogs. Historically, diesel engines were prized for their efficiency, but it's now clear that the old-style technology releases far too much particulate matter. New efforts to clean diesel school buses, as well as other vehicles, aren't happening too soon.
It's also time to ramp up conversion to biodiesel, which burns much cleaner than the old stuff made from petroleum.
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