Air Pollution Can Cause Irregular Heartbeats Almost Instantly | tech news

The negative health effects of air pollution are manifold

The negative health effects of air pollution are far-reaching (Picture: Getty)

Exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of arrhythmias — an irregular heartbeat — within hours, a large study has found.

Arrhythmia takes a number of forms, including atrial flutter, which can cause palpitations and light-headedness, and supraventricular tachycardia, when the heart feels like it’s racing.

Both are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the heart, which in the most severe cases can lead to heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.

In a study of 2,025 hospitals in 322 Chinese cities — where air pollution levels far exceed the World Health Organization’s safe air quality guidelines — researchers found that exposure to particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone was associated with significantly higher chances of arrhythmia .

“We found that acute exposure to air pollution was associated with an increased risk of symptomatic arrhythmia,” said Dr. Renjie Chen from the School of Public Health at Fudan University in Shanghai.

“Risks emerged within the first hours after exposure and could persist for 24 hours. The exposure-response relationships between six pollutants and four arrhythmia subtypes were approximately linear with no apparent concentration thresholds.’

Between 2015 and 2021, the researchers studied 190,155 hospitalized patients with acute onset of an irregular heartbeat and followed each case three or four times, measuring their heart rate at the same time and day of the week over the following month.

The results concluded that exposure to air pollution was almost immediately associated with the occurrence of cardiac arrhythmias. The risk is reduced after 24 hours.

The authors wrote in the Canadian Medical Association Journal: “We found the strongest associations of air pollution with atrial flutter and supraventricular tachycardia, followed by atrial fibrillation and premature heartbeats.

“Although the exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood, the association we observed between air pollution and acute onset of cardiac arrhythmia is biologically plausible.”

The team noted the speed at which pollution was affecting patients, and with it the need to protect people in areas with poor air quality.

“Our study adds to the evidence for adverse cardiovascular effects of air pollution,” they wrote. “This underscores the importance of continuing to reduce exposure to air pollution and immediately protecting vulnerable populations worldwide.”

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Justin Scaccy

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