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Karolinska University Hospital study links air pollution to heart risks

Karolinska University Hospital study links air pollution to heart risks

Air pollution is the fourth largest risk factor for premature death. New research from the renowned Swedish Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM) suggests that even very low levels of air pollution may be associated with an increased risk. This holds true not only for larger cities but also for smaller towns.

Reducing air pollution levels

The results stem from a dissertation at the Karolinska Institute, where Marcus Dahlquist studied the environmental impact on the risk of heart disorders. Petter Ljungman, a researcher at IMM, senior physician at Danderyd Hospital, and supervisor to Dahlquist, emphasizes the need for stricter legislation.

"To reduce levels of air pollution, effective legislation is needed. Even though particle levels in Swedish outdoor air are far below the EU's limit value, we now see risks in both Swedish cities and the countryside. Our research shows that current limit values need to be tightened to protect against the risk of cardiac arrest, which is an important message as the EU now negotiates a new air quality directive that will become statutory for all EU countries."

Research methodology

In this study, data from 30,000 cardiac arrests from all over Sweden were combined with air quality data. The results indicate that the risk of suffering a cardiac arrest increases with higher air pollution.

Study conclusion

Exposure to air pollution can have several negative health effects. Besides impacting the heart in the form of heart attacks, heart failure, and arrhythmias, it can also increase the risk of dementia, COPD, and asthma. Petter Ljungman's unit has previously demonstrated that pollutants also affect the development of lung function in children in Stockholm.

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