Washington: Air pollution is associated with detrimental effects on human health, including increased risk of heart disease and stroke. A new research shows that the knowledge gained from the marine ecosystem might help protect the climate and health of our planet, whilst also helping human health.
The University of Manchester shows that around 11,000 coronary heart disease and stroke deaths in the UK each year are attributable to air pollution, specifically due to particulate matter (PM), or small particles in the air that cause health problems. PM2.5 is one of the most dangerous types of PM, a compound for which the UK has failed to meet EU limits.
Researchers of this study looked across all vertebrates and particularly focussed on a set of compounds that bind to the surface of PM, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) as the amount of PAH on PM is associated with the detrimental effect air pollution has on the heart.
While air pollution is known to be dangerous to humans, it actually only became a widely-researched topic in the past five years or so. In marine species, however, the mechanism of how PAH pollution causes heart problems is well understood.
Studies after the 1999 Exxon Valdez oil spill showed that the ecosystem still has not recovered 20 years on. In 2010, research on fish after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which released large quantities of PAHs into the marine environment, showed that the heart's ability to contract was impaired.
Dr Holly Shiels, a senior author on the study, from The University of Manchester, said: "Pollution affects all of us living on planet Earth. Due to the conserved nature of cardiac function amongst animals, fish exposed to PAH from oil spills can serve as indicators, providing significant insights into the human health impacts of PAHs and PM air pollution."
Dr Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which partly funded the research presented in this review, commented: "We know that air pollution can have a hugely damaging effect on the heart and circulatory health, and this review summarises mechanisms potentially contributing to impaired? heart function. Reducing air pollution is crucial to protecting our heart health, which is why the BHF is calling on the next Government to commit to reducing air pollution within WHO limits."