Air pollution from wildfires may ignite heart problems

New York, Jul 17 (IANS) Air pollution from wildfires may increase the risk of cardiac arrest and other sudden acute heart problems, a study by an Indian-origin researcher shows.

“While breathing wildfire smoke was linked to respiratory problems such as asthma – evidence of an association between wildfire smoke exposure and heart problems has been inconsistent,” said lead author Anjali Haikerwal, department of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Monash University.

Researchers examined the association between exposure to tiny particulate pollutants found in wildfire smoke and the risk of heart-related incidents in the state of Victoria between December 2006 and January 2007.

During these two months, smoke reached cities far from the blazes and on most days the levels of fine particulate air pollutant exceeded recommended air quality limits, said the study that appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

For an increase from the 25th to 75th percentile in particulate concentration over two days, after adjusting for temperature and humidity, there was a 6.98 percent increase in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, with a stronger association between pollution and cardiac arrests in men and people 65 and older.

There was also a 2.07-percent increase in emergency department visits for acute cardiac events and 1.86 percent increase in hospitalisations for acute cardiac events, with a stronger association in women and people 65 and older.

“These particles may act as a trigger factor for acute cardiovascular events, therefore its important to not delay seeking medical help if you experience symptoms of heart problems during smoke episodes from wildfires,” Haikerwal said.

Fine particulate matter may be the most common and hazardous type of air pollution.

During a fire, precautionary measures should be taken as advised by public health officials.

“This is especially important for older adults who are at higher risk of adverse health effects during wildfire smoke exposure,” Haikerwal said.

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