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Coarse particulate matter in air may harm hearts of asthma sufferers, UNC study finds

CHAPEL HILL -- Breathing air containing coarse particulate matter such as road or construction dust may cause heart problems for asthma sufferers and other vulnerable populations, according to a new study led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health.

The researchers found that in people with asthma, a small increase in coarse particulate matter in outdoor air raised bad cholesterol and increased the count of inflammation-linked white blood cells, among other changes.

"This research was all done with study participants just being outside and breathing outdoor air," said Dr. Karin Yeatts, research assistant professor of epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health, a member of the UNC Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology, and the studys principal investigator. "Our results indicate that susceptible people really need to pay attention to air pollution warnings and stay inside when the air pollution is bad. This is particularly the case for people with asthma."

The study, published in the May 2007 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, was a collaboration by researchers from the School of Public Health, the School of Medicines Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The team found that when adult asthma sufferers were exposed to a one microgram per cubic meter increase in coarse particulate matter in ambient air their triglyceride levels increased by nearly five percent. Elevated levels of triglycerides have been shown to increase ones risk of coronary heart disease. The amount of eosinophils in study participants blood also increased by 0.16 percent after exposure to the higher levels of coarse particulate matter. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell created by the human body to fight infections, allergies and diseases like asthma among other things. Finally, the same increase in coarse p
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Contact: Becky Oskin
becky_oskin@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
9-May-2007


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