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Pollution: Bad Air Causes Heart Disease, Heart Group Says

Bad Air Causes Heart Disease, Heart Group Says
Tue Jun 1, 2004 10:47 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Air pollution causes heart disease, the American Heart Association said on Tuesday.

While pollution does not cause as many heart attacks as high blood pressure, for example, it is a serious risk factor, the group said in a statement.

"This is a serious public health problem due to the enormous number of people affected and because exposure to air pollution occurs over an entire lifetime," said Dr. Robert Brook of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who helped write the statement.

Writing in the Association's journal Circulation, Brook and colleagues said this was the first firm conclusion from the group about the long-term effects of chronic exposure to pollution. Their statement adds authority to a collection of findings that some groups have disputed.

They reviewed as many published studies as they could find on links between heart disease and pollution.

Particulate matter pollution -- soot -- is especially dangerous, they concluded. They also reaffirmed that secondhand smoke causes heart disease.

"A recent report from the American Cancer Society study cohort found that long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution at levels that occur in North America increased the risk for cardiovascular mortality," Brook said.

Traffic is one of the worst sources, they found. An eight-year study of 5,000 adults showed people who lived near a major road were more likely to die of a cardiovascular problem.

More study was needed to understand how, exactly, pollution caused heart disease, the researchers said.

"We hope that these conclusions will provide further support to the importance of the present-day air quality standards," Brook said.

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