Acute health effects of air pollution in China: Study finds link between carbon monoxide and death from cardiovascular disease

Exposure to high concentrations of ambient carbon monoxide in the air may raise the odds of dying from a plethora of cardiovascular conditions, a study published in The Lancet Planetary Health revealed. The scientists noted that the study, which analyzed air quality in various Chinese cities, was consistent with previous European research that demonstrated a link between air quality and heart health.

A team of Chinese researchers carried out a nationwide time-series analysis in 272 major cities in China from January 2013 to December 2015 as part of the study. The research team pooled data from China’s Disease Surveillance Points system to obtain information on the country’s daily cardiovascular disease mortality rates. The scientists also obtained data from the National Urban Air Quality Real-time Publishing Platform to determine the daily carbon monoxide concentrations for each examined city.

The experts then used over-dispersed generalized linear models to determine the correlation between carbon monoxide exposure and cardiovascular diseases, while Bayesian hierarchical models were utilized to attain the national and regional average associations. (Related: Vitamin B supplements found to reverse adverse effects of air pollution on your cardiovascular system.)

The results showed that the total number of cardiovascular deaths in the examined cities were about eight cases per day for cardiovascular disease, three cases per day for coronary heart disease and four cases per day for stroke. The findings also revealed that climatic conditions — such as humidity and temperature — and co-pollutant concentrations were associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular causes.

Furthermore, data from subgroup analyses revealed that women, people older than 75 years, and people with low levels of education were more likely to suffer cardiovascular deaths than men, younger people and those with higher education. The findings may hold important implications that may promote the development of stricter government policies on air quality regulation, the researchers said.

“Overall, we found significant associations between short-term exposure to ambient carbon monoxide and cardiovascular disease mortality,” the researchers concluded. “Consistent with the findings of this European study, we found that the associations in our study remained after controlling for simultaneous exposure to other pollutants. Therefore, our findings have important public health and policy implications that might encourage the government to tighten air quality standards to alleviate the adverse health effects of carbon monoxide.”

Vitamin B supplements may protect against pollution-induced heart disease

A study published in 2017 in the journal Scientific Reports revealed that taking vitamin B supplements might mitigate the risk of pollution-induced cardiovascular disease. According to the scientists, the study was the first of its kind to demonstrate that vitamin B supplements change the body’s biologic and physiologic response to ambient air pollution particles.

A team of researchers at the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health recruited 10 healthy, non-smoking volunteers aged 18 to 60 years old as part of the study. The participants were instructed to take a placebo pill for four weeks preceding a two-hour exposure experiment to concentrated ambient PM2.5. The volunteers were then administered vitamin B supplements for another four weeks followed by a repeat two-hour pollution exposure test.

The researchers found that ambient air pollution exposure led to a 150 percent decrease in heart rate, 139 percent decline in total white blood cell count and a 106 percent decrease in total lymphocyte count. However, the experts observed that taking the vitamin B supplements for our weeks nearly reversed all the negative side effects of ambient air pollution exposure in the participants.

“With ambient PM2.5 levels far exceeding air quality standards in many large urban areas worldwide, pollution regulation remains the backbone of public health protection against its cardiovascular health effects. Studies like ours cannot diminish–nor be used to underemphasize–the urgent need to lower air pollution levels to–at a minimum–meet the air quality standards set forth in the United States and other countries,” said Dr. Andrea Baccarelli, chair and Leon Hess Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School.

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