Diesel Fumes Can Harm Heart, Study Says

Ultrafine <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/Diesel_Fumes_and_Lung_Cancer">diesel exhaust particles, released by exhaust fumes, could, according to recent research, increase one’s likelihood for heart attacks. When diesel burns, said Science Daily, it becomes harmful to blood vessels, increasing the risks for blood clots in the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The research was conducted by the University of Edinburgh, funded by the British Heart Foundation, and published in the European Heart Journal.

The team measured how diesel exhaust fumes affect healthy volunteers, utilizing levels present in typical heavily polluted cities, said Science Daily. When comparing the reactions of diesel fume gases—carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide—with those resulting from the ultrafine particles, it was the tiny particles that adversely affected blood vessel functioning, which controls how blood travels to organs.

The ultrafine particles, described by Science Daily as “invisible,” are smaller than one-millionth of a meter in width and can be filtered out of exhaust emissions with a special trap. These particle traps are in use, retrospectively, in the United States on public transportation vehicles.

Dr. Mark Miller, of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science, said that, “While many people tend to think of the effects of air pollution in terms of damage to the lungs, there is strong evidence that it has an impact on the heart and blood vessels as well. Our research shows that while both gases and particles can affect our blood pressure, it is actually the miniscule chemical particles that are emitted by car exhausts that are really harmful,” quoted Science Daily.

Scientists have long known that diesel fumes might play a role in the development of lung cancer. Diesel fumes consist of a toxic stew of about 400 chemicals, including benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic, cyanide, and lead. Breathing large amounts of diesel fumes could cause respiratory diseases, and people with asthma, heart disease, and emphysema can experience a worsening of symptoms if exposed to the exhaust. Long-term exposure leads to chronic obstructive lung disease as well as lung cancer.

“These particles produce highly reactive molecules called free radicals that can injure our blood vessels and lead to vascular disease. We are now investigating which of the chemicals carried by these particles cause these harmful actions, so that in the future we can try and remove these chemicals, and prevent the health effects of vehicle emissions,” Dr. Miller added, quoted Science Daily.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said, “We’ve known for a long time that air pollution is a major heart health issue and that’s why we’re funding this team in Edinburgh to continue their vital research. Their findings suggest that lives could be saved by cutting these harmful nanoparticles out of exhaust—perhaps by taking them out of the fuel, or making manufacturers add gadgets to their vehicles that can trap particles before they escape. The best approach isn’t clear yet,” quoted Science Daily. “For now, our advice remains the same—people with heart disease should avoid spending long periods outside in areas where traffic pollution is likely to be high, such as on or near busy roads,” she concluded.

We previously wrote that prior research suggested that lung cancer risks are higher among trucking industry workers because of diesel fume exposure. According to a study published the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, workers in the trucking industry with an estimated 20 years on the job have an elevated risk of lung cancer with each increasing year of work due to their diesel fume exposure.

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