Supported by a $3-million National Institutes of Health grant, Dr. Ralph Delfino, an associate professor in the College of Medicine, and colleagues from UCI and the University of Southern California will monitor elderly individuals to see how daily pollution levels impact their ailments. These seniors will have existing heart disease and live in Southern California retirement homes impacted by high regional or local air pollution.
"Heart disease is the leading cause of hospitalization and death among the elderly," Delfino said. "If we can learn more about the relationship between heart disease and the ultrafine particles in smog, it could lead to air pollution regulations that better protect our health, improved medical treatment and longer and healthier lives for our senior population."
The researchers anticipate finding an association between the amount of ultrafine particles in the air and the severity of heart disease in the study subjects. Although very small in size, these particles carry condensed toxic elements that in numerous laboratory studies were found to trigger lung and heart inflammation and a host of cardiac ailments, such as blood clots, hardening of the arteries and heart disease.
Ultrafine particles are produced primarily by engine combustion, with diesel engine exhaust containing a particularly high concentration. Because they are so small (less than 100 nanometers in size), they are easily absorbed into blood stream and individual cells.
Currently, local and federal agencies do not regulate ultrafine particle emissions.
Delfino and his colleagues will base one part of the study in the Los Angeles area, near the traffic sources of ultrafine particles, and another in the Riverside area, w
Contact: Tom Vasich
University of California - Irvine