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Air pollution linked to heart disease

3rd March 2006

Scientists believe they may have discovered a link between pollution and fatal heart disease and stroke.

A new report, which highlights the possible link, has been published today by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP).

Researchers believe that cardiovascular deaths may be directly related to the inhalation of small concentration of pollutants in the atmosphere.

So far the scientists do not think that the association with cardiovascular diseases are as large as factors such as family history, hypertension and smoking.

"The evidence that exposure to air pollutants has important effects on the cardiovascular system is of public health concern and calls for greater research," Professor Jon Ayres, chairman of COMEAP said.

The committee identified two possible mechanisms by which air pollution may affect the cardiovascular system.

The first is that the inhalation of particles causes chemical reactions in the body which may increase the risk of blood clots. Secondly, there is the possibility that the particles may subtly affect the heart's rhythm.

An information pack which includes details about air pollution and health is being provided by the Department of Health Publications Centre.