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Air pollution has been linked to a deadly heart rhythm disorder, according to a new study. Air pollution is connected to nearly one in five cardiovascular disease deaths. Air pollution was ranked the fourth-highest risk factor for death, according to researchers, after high blood pressure, tobacco use, and poor diet.

Source: National Geographic/Youtube

The research was presented in Madrid, Spain, for the scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). The study looked at patients with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) which tracks their heart rhythms.

The study examined the connection between air pollution and ventricular arrhythmias in Piacenza, Northern Italy, which was graded the 307th worst city for air pollution out of 323 by The European Environment Agency.

“Our study suggests that people at high risk of ventricular arrhythmias, such as those with an ICD, should check daily pollution levels,” said study author Dr. Alessia Zanni, now working at Maggiore Hospital, Bologna, and previously at Piacenza Hospital, Italy.

“When particular matter (PM) 2.5 and PM 10 concentrations are high (above 35 μg/m3 and 50 μg/m3, respectively), it would be sensible to stay indoors as much as possible and wear an N95 mask outside, particularly in areas of heavy traffic. An air purifier can be used at home.”

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 4.2 million people every year are killed from outdoor air pollution.

“We had observed that emergency room visits for arrhythmias in patients with ICDs tended to cluster on days with particularly high air pollution,” said Dr. Zanni.

“We therefore decided to compare the concentration of air pollutants on days when patients had an arrhythmia versus pollution levels on days without an arrhythmia.”

The study looked at 146 consecutive patients who received an ICD between January 2013 and December 2017. Of those patients, 93 received an ICD because of heart failure after a heart attack, while 53 received an ICD because of a genetic or inflammatory heart condition.

79 of the patients had never experienced a ventricular arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythms, and 67 patients previously had.

Data on ventricular arrhythmias (ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation) were collected remotely from the ICD until study completion at the end of 2017.

The researchers also note the therapy delivered by the device, including anti-tachycardia pacing for ventricular tachycardia (fast heartbeat), which delivers electrical impulses to the heart muscle to restore a normal heart rate and rhythm, and electric shock which resets the heartbeat during ventricular fibrillation.

Researchers took note of the daily levels of PM10, PM2.5, carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3). Patients were noted with the exposures based on their home addresses.

The results were heartbreaking. They found that higher levels of these pollutants were linked to a higher occurrence of ventricular arrhythmias.

Dr. Zanni said, “These data confirm that environmental pollution is not only a climate emergency but also a public health problem. The study suggests that the survival of patients with heart disease is affected not only by pharmacological therapies and advances in cardiology but also by the air that they breathe.”

Air pollution is an invisible killer and has been linked to so many diseases, including fatty liver disease, depression, and other mental health issues, and a study even found that nearly 6 million babies born prematurely in 2019 were likely linked to air pollution. Eating meat has been linked to a rise in air pollution, and factory farms are one of the biggest to blame for our dirty air. According to the WHO, an estimated 4.2 million people every year are killed from outdoor air pollution, and 99 percent of the global population breathes air that exceeds WHO guideline limits, with low and middle-income areas disproportionately affected.

Check out these eco-artists that are using their art to call attention to the massive problem of air pollution and sign the petition to demand federal clean-up of disproportionately affected polluted areas in the United States.

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