Magazine article Science News

Heart-Y Risks from Breathing Fine Dust

Magazine article Science News

Heart-Y Risks from Breathing Fine Dust

Article excerpt

Nearly 1,200 hospitalizations for heart disease in the Detroit area each year may trace to fine, dust-sized particles in the air--and perhaps to carbon monoxide, a new study suggests. If the associations hold up, any national tally of heart disease emergencies fostered by these pollutants would be dramatically higher.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently reevaluating its 1987 particulates standard. One impetus has been a spate of studies showing that daily hospital admissions and deaths from respiratory disease tend to fluctuate in near lockstep with variations in airborne dust--even when particulate levels fall within federal limits.

The new study departs from earlier analyses by following up on hints of a tantalizing cardiovascular link that appeared in several mortality studies. The researchers selected Detroit, explains Joel Schwartz of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, because it was the largest region for which daily measurements are kept of the most respirable particles--those 10 micrometers and smaller. EPA regulates just these PM-10 particulates.

Along with Robert Morris of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Madison, Schwartz looked for correlations between heart disease and either weather or any of several different pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, ozone, and PM-10.

Only PM-10 correlated with hospital admissions for ischemia (problems linked to reduced blood flow), they report in the July 1 American Journal of Epidemiology. …

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