Elderly Have Higher Risk of Cardiovascular, Respiratory Disease from Fine Particle Pollution
New data from a four-year study of 11.5 million Medicare enrollees show that short-term exposure to fine particle air pollution significantly increases the risk for cardiovascular and respiratory disease among people over 65 years of age.
Schmalfeldt: New data from a four-year study of 11.5 million Medicare enrollees show that short-term exposure to fine particle air pollution significantly increases the risk for cardiovascular and respiratory disease among people over 65 years of age. The study, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the US Environmental Protection Agency, is the largest ever conducted on the link between fine particle air pollution and hospital admissions for heart and lung-related illnesses. The study showed that even a small increase in fine particle air pollution increased hospital admissions for heart and vascular disease, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory infection. Dr. Pat Mastin is chief of the Cellular, Organs and Systems Pathology Branch within the Division of Extramural Research at NIEHS. He talked about what the study means and what more needs to be learned.
Mastin: There's three areas in my mind that the air pollution/cardiovascular topic area needs to focus on. One of these is susceptibility — elderly people and also people who have pre-existing diseases. We need to do a lot more research into genetic susceptibility to this. The second area is to look at sources, and by sources I mean what is it in particulate air pollution, which is a very complex mixture, what are the things that are most toxic to the cardiovascular system? And then the third thing, of course, is what causes it? What are the mechanisms of it. This paper doesn't really approach that, but that may be the most pressing question and one that far more research needs to be done on.
Schmalfeldt: Another interesting feature of the data, according to Dr. Mastin, is the fact that the risk for air pollution-related cardiovascular disease was highest in counties located in the eastern United States. He said that identifying the various factors that might contribute to these differences between eastern and western regions is a complex issue that will need to be addressed. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Pat Mastin
Topic: Heart Disease, Respiratory Disease, Pollution