Scientists warn that exposure to air pollution emitted by motor vehicles is causing heart attacks and heart disease.
Heart attacks have been on the increase worldwide, and the media has been scrambling to find different causes for the epidemic ranging from everything to not wearing masks, the weather, and now car pollution.
According to a new study published on Friday in JAMA Network Open, Californians exposed to fine particle pollution from vehicles, smokestacks, and fires face the biggest threat from heart attacks.
Research scientist at Kaiser Permanente, Stacey Alexeeff, said the risk of dying from a heart attack rose “even when those exposure levels are at or below our current U.S. air quality standards.”
Alexeeff and her colleagues derived data from 3.7 million adults who lived in Northern California between 2007 to 2016 and lived in the state in the last year.
The researchers established the annual average exposure to fine particulate pollution by tying each person’s address to a specific geographical location.
They then identified which patients were diagnosed with a heart attack and which had died from heart or cardiovascular disease.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current regulatory standard for fine particle air pollution, or PM 2.5, it is two micrograms per cubic meter on average over a year.
Researchers said that those exposed to PM 2.5 at concentrations between 12 and 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter saw a 10 percent increased risk of a heart attack while dying from cardiovascular disease increased by 16 percent compared with exposures under eight micrograms per cubic meter.
The authors also warned that there are still significant risks of dying from a heart attack at concentrations under the EPA’s regulatory standard.
The researchers observed that adults exposed to PM 2.5 at levels of 10 to 11.9 micrograms per cubic meter saw a 6 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 7 percent increased risk of death from heart disease.
The EPA’s recent proposal to cut the annual PM 2.5 standard to 9 and 10 micrograms aligns with the World Economic Forum’s push to remove all private vehicles by 2030 and get vast amounts of the population either sharing cards or using electric vehicles.
“Our work has the potential to play an important role in ongoing national conversations led by the Environmental Protection Agency on whether — and how much — to tighten air quality standards to protect the public from pollution’s effects,” Alexeeff said.
Researchers also determined that socioeconomic status was linked to pollution exposure and cardiovascular disease development.
The scientist said they saw a strong link “in people who live in low socioeconomic areas, where there is often more industry, busier streets, and more highways,” co-author Stephen Van Den Eeden said.
“Neighborhood matters when it comes to exposures to this type of air pollution,” Van Den Eeden added.
The research mirrors a study at Penn State University last year, which found that nearly 80 percent of urban-dwelling 17-year-olds suffered from irregular heartbeats, known medically as an arrhythmia.
They, too, blamed heart problems on particles from exhaust getting into the lungs and blood, causing inflammation.
As The Daily Mail reported, Dr. Robert Brook, a cardiovascular disease expert at Wayne State University in Detroit who was not involved in the research, said: “The most interesting and significant aspect of this study is clearly that the results were found in healthy young adolescents.”