Numerous deaths Air pollution leads to rising cardiovascular disease

Numerous deaths Air pollution leads to rising cardiovascular disease / Health News

Dangerous vascular damage: cardiovascular diseases due to air pollution

Air pollution - and particulate pollution in particular - represents a global health risk. More than four million people worldwide die each year. As researchers now report, the bad air especially harms our heart health.

Health consequences of air pollution

As an international research team reported years ago in the journal "Nature", in Germany alone, around 35,000 people die every year from the effects of air pollution. Health experts estimate that around 4 million people die each year worldwide. However, high particulate matter exposure not only weakens the lungs, but also causes millions of cases of type 2 diabetes and increases the risk of Alzheimer's. Above all, air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases.

Air pollution, and particulate matter in particular, is responsible for more than four million deaths worldwide each year. Most of them are the result of cardiovascular disease. (Image: Ralf Geithe /

Especially particulate matter is dangerous

Air pollution, and particulate matter in particular, is responsible for more than four million deaths worldwide each year.

Almost 60 percent of deaths occur as a result of cardiovascular diseases.

The large percentage of deaths from cardiovascular disease has led an international panel of experts from Germany, England and the US to analyze the negative effects of air pollution on vascular function.

The results of the scientists around Univ.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Münzel, Director of Cardiology I at the Center for Cardiology of the Mainz University Medical Center, has now been published in a review article in the journal "European Heart Journal".

Vessels are damaged

Central research questions were which components of air pollution (particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide) are particularly damaging to the cardiovascular system and which mechanisms damage the vessels.

"This report in the latest edition of the European Heart Journal is another important contribution from our Working Group on Environment and Cardiovascular Diseases," said Professor Münzel, according to a statement.

"In summary, it can be said that - in terms of the vascular damaging effect of air pollution - particulate matter plays a prominent role," said the expert.

"Especially the ultrafine dust makes us very worried. This is the size of a virus. When the ultrafine dust is inhaled, it goes straight into the blood via the lungs, is taken up by the vessels and causes inflammation locally, "Münzel explained.

"This ultimately causes more atherosclerosis (vascular calcification) and thus leads to more cardiovascular diseases than heart attack, acute myocardial infarction, heart failure or cardiac arrhythmias."

And further: "It is also interesting to note the fact that with regard to the much-discussed diesel exhaust gases, particulate matter and not nitrogen dioxide (NO2), both of which are produced by the combustion of diesel fuel, have a negative effect on the vascular function."

Emissions must be reduced

The other participants in the expert group are the fine dust researcher Sanjay Rajagopalan of the Cleveland Clinic (USA), the vascular researcher and cardiology John Deanfield of the Institute for Cardiovascular Science in London, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Andreas Daiber, Head of Molecular Cardiology of the University Medical Center Mainz and Prof. Dr. med. Jos Lelieveld from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz.

"The particulate matter is chemically formed mainly in the atmosphere from emissions from traffic, industry and agriculture. To achieve low, safe levels of human health, emissions from all these sources need to be reduced, "commented Professor Lelieveld.

"In the future, together with the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, we will intensively investigate the causes of cardiovascular diseases caused by air pollution, especially in combination with (flight) noise," added Münzel. (Ad)