Air pollution linked to greater risk of lung clots and AF

Blood clots in the lungs and AF are more common in highly polluted areas of England and Wales, but improving air quality may be lowering risks to cardiovascular health, UK research suggests.

Pulmonary blood vessel clot: pollution raises risks (Photo: SPL)
Pulmonary blood vessel clot: pollution raises risks (Photo: SPL)

A study of millions of cardiovascular emergency admissions and deaths found an increased risk of pulmonary embolism and AF among people living in areas with high levels of small-particle 'PM2.5' air pollutants.

However, the link between pollution and the risk of MI and stroke was less clear, researchers said.

A team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at data from the Myocardial Ischaemia National Audit Project, which tracks hospital admissions for MI/stroke, as well as hospital episode statistics on emergency admissions and figures from the Office of National Statistics on recorded deaths.

They found no clear link between pollution levels and cardiovascular deaths, except the link between PM2.5 and AF, irregular heart rhythm and lung clots. Only nitrogen dioxide was linked to raised risk of hospital admission for cardiovascular disease, including heart failure and non-ST elevation MI.

In an accompanying editorial, cardiologists from the University of Edinburgh said improving air quality may be changing the risks from pollution.

They said: 'The current lack of consistent associations with contemporary UK data may suggest that as the fog begins to clear, the adverse health effects of air pollution are starting to have less of an impact and are more difficult to delineate.'

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