Environmental protection: High levels of particulate matter can sustainably increase blood pressure in cities.
(May 20, 2010) In cities there are still high levels of particulate matter. It is not new that environmental pollution threatens human and animal health. A long-term study in the Ruhr area came to the conclusion that high levels of fine dust in the air can permanently lead to high blood pressure. Due to the concentration of industry and car traffic, particulate matter levels in cities are particularly high. The values are often exceeded.
Researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen explained their results at a US conference of the "American Thoracic Society" in New Orleans. In one study, the scientists had examined around 5,000 people over the years. The results suggest that even fine dust concentrations below the specified limit values cause lasting health damage. "Our results show that blood pressure is also influenced in the medium and long term in areas with high air pollution," said study director Barbara Hoffmann.
In the course of the study, the scientists first examined the background pollution of fine dust in the 600 square kilometer region around Mühlheim, Bochum and Essen. Real measurement data in the region were calibrated in a model. The background pollution in the region was related to the health data of the almost 5000 inhabitants of the examined region. The study participants were between 45 and 75 years old. The subjects were examined from 2000 to 2003 and 2006 to 2008 for diseases such as heart attack and diseases of the cardiovascular system. The researchers also assessed other risk factors such as smoking, unhealthy eating, age, social status, diabetes and body weight. Because all of these risk factors can also chronically increase blood pressure and thus lead to cardiovascular complications.
Thanks to the very differentiated evaluations, the other risk factors could be separated from the fine dust factor. If the fine dust pollution in cities increases by 2.4 micrograms per cubic meter of air, blood pressure also rises by an amount. "Our results should explain why people who live in environments that are more exposed to particulate matter are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and dying," explains Baumann. (sb)
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