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Air pollution's impact on the heart is as bad as having been a smoker

In a follow-up analysis of the most extensive study of its kind on the long-term effects of air pollution on human health, researchers have found that people living in U.S. cities face an increased risk of dying from a heart attack as a result of long-term exposure to air pollution. This increased risk was found to be as large as that associated with being a former smoker. The new analysis is published as a study in the rapid access issue of the journal Circulation, published by the American Heart Association.

"It is clear that long-term exposure to the levels of air pollution that Americans are routinely exposed to is a significant contributor to ischemic heart disease," says George Thurston, Sc.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, and one of the new study's authors. "When we looked at the data, we observed that the increased risk of dying from some forms of heart disease among non-smokers living in polluted cities is roughly comparable to the increased risk caused by being a former smoker."

The new analysis is based on data collected by the American Cancer Society (ACS) on the cause of death of some 500,000 adults over a 16-year period from 1982 to 1998 and on data on pollution levels in cities nationwide. These data sets were also the basis for an earlier study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2002. The JAMA study showed that over many years, the danger of breathing soot-filled air in American cities significantly raised the risk of dying from lung cancer and heart disease, and the risk was comparable to the health risks of living with a smoker.

The new analysis by researchers George Thurston of New York University School of Medicine, and Arden Pope of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, (both Drs. Thurston and Pope were authors of the JAMA study), and by colleagues from other institutions, further categorized the cause of death in the grou
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Contact: Pam McDonnell
Pamela.McDonnell@med.nyu.edu
212-404-3555
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine
15-Dec-2003


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