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L.A. air pollution may increase risk of stroke

Ace February 16, 2012 0

A recent study that was published Monday Feb, 13 2012, in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that Boston residents experienced more strokes when exposed to everyday amounts of particulate air pollution. This was being done to monitor the levels of car pollution specifically.

L.A.’s smog problem is getting pretty bad and more visible over the years. According to the study the levels of pollution are passed EPA standards and will eventually lead to increased risk of stroke, or even memory loss.

Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center ran a study of about 1,700 stroke victims. The study’s authors found that the risk of stroke was 34% higher on days of “moderate” exposure than it was on “good” days. The effects were most acute in the first 12 to 14 hours after exposure.

George Wellenius, an assistant professor of Epidemiology at Brown University and lead author of the study, added “The main message is that, at levels that are below the current EPA standards that are considered safe, we were seeing a rather large increase in risk of stroke in association with particulate air pollution.”

According to Wellenius, car and truck traffic is an important source of this pollution, as are oil-fired or coal-fired power plants, manufacturing processes, and the burning of wood.



Particulate air pollution, or ambient particles, includes fine particles less than 2.5 micrograms in mass, less that 1/10 the diameter of a human hair, which enter the body primarily through the airways. Many of these particles and other pollutant gases are found in smog. Los Angeles continued its long winning streak as the smoggiest place in the United States again in 2011.

An EPA advisory board has recommended toughening many national standards that would help with particulate pollution, including ozone emissions standards and sulfur content standards for gasoline, but the Obama administration has rejected them, saying they were too costly to industry. Seems like they are concerned about getting the job done and making money now rather than building a clean future for generations to come.

On the brighter side, A New York Times editorial Monday challenged the White House to approve those sulfur standards and to grant California waivers needed to implement stringent new standards for nitrogen oxides and other pollutants, and to make 1 out of 7 cars emissions-free by 2025.

“The pollutant levels have been going down over the decades, which is good news,” says Jean Ospital, health effects officer for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Jean along with her colleagues are those who enforce air quality standards in the Southland. She added, “The not-so-good news is that our health researchers are finding health effects at ever-lower levels of pollution.”

Ospital points out that health studies usually focus on the long-term effects of air pollution, but this one is extremely short-term, only about 24 hours. Correlations are already known with heart attacks at those concentrations and duration, and now it looks like stroke might be associated with them as well. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA revises its standards every five years, and a review of the particulate standard is actually ongoing right now.

When you think about it, it’s really common sense. Reducing the number of particles will reduce the number of stroke hospitalizations.  They key point here is start now before it gets to an uncontrollable rate.


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