Environmental Defense Statement On Study Linking Air Pollution To Hardening of Arteries

January 31, 2005

Today the journal Environmental Health Perspectives released a new report linking exposure to fine particle air pollution with atherosclerosis, or thickening of the arteries.  With more hearings scheduled this week on the Clear Skies legislation, which would rollback present clean air laws, this study provides one more example of why we need to strengthen, not weaken air pollution protections. 

“Studies have linked air pollution to premature death from heart disease for over a decade,” said Dr. John Balbus, physician and head of the health program for Environmental Defense.  “This study shows again that women and men are suffering from current exposures to fine particle pollution and points to the need for swift and sure reductions in fine particle pollution.”

Today’s study, which can be viewed at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/press/012805.html, links fine particle pollution exposure over the long-term to thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) in the neck.  This type of chronic thickening of the blood vessels can set the stage for sudden or gradual blockage of blood flow.

This study examines the impacts of chronic exposure to particulate matter and is coupled with recent studies that contributed to experts’ understanding of how acute exposure to fine particle pollution can trigger heart attacks.  Acute exposure to fine particle pollution leads to inflammation of the blood vessels that can cause blood clotting and acutely blocked arteries. 

Major reports are also expected this week from the EPA on regulatory options for PM2.5 and the state of the science on ozone effects.