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Confirmed! Air Pollution Linked to High Blood Pressure

Jun 04, 2016 04:54 PM EDT

Here's another reason to cut down on carbon emissions.

A study published in the journal Hypertension reported that air pollution is tied to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for coronary heart disease which kills over 370,000 people annually.

High cholesterol and smoking were previously proven as risk factors, and while pollution has been hypothesized as a risk factor since 1900s, it is only recently that it has been proven through a meta-analysis.

By analyzing groups of study on air pollution and hypertension, experts at Guangdong Provincial Institute of Public Health in China found that short- and long-term exposure to coal burning [sulfur dioxide (SO2)], vehicle exhaust [nitrogen dioxide (NO2)] and particles found in dust and dirt in the air were associated with risk for high blood pressure.

Exposure to these may lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, which may then cause changes in the arteries, the study said.

"There is a linear relationship between air pollution and hypertension, which indicated that even a very low level of air pollution might induce hypertension risk," senior author Tao Liu of the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Guangzhou, China told Reuters via e-mail.

"Therefore, everyone should be concerned about the effects of air pollution on their blood pressure even if there is a very low air pollution level in their living environment."

Although further studies are needed to be done to strengthen the claim, researchers said the study should serve as a warning to all and a reminder to lawmakers that air pollution is serious and policy to curb its effects is needed as soon as possible.

"Next we plan to further delve into the effects of particulate matter and their sources on hypertension risk, which we hope will inform air-pollution control policy-makers," Liu said in a press release.

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