Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Heart Attack, Stroke and Haze

In Malaysia, haze has become an annual phenomenon. Come August and September, when our dear neighbor Indonesia starts their open burning “festival”, we feel the chock. I would always advise my overseas friend to avoid visiting Malaysia between these two months to avoid the haze. Then for us whose office is on higher floors, we will feel like we are in heaven with everything looked white and serene outside the window. For years, we have tried to get our neighbor to stop all these open burning but to no avail.
We are much better compared to China where it is hard to see clear skies in major cities. Throughout my many visits to Beijing, the only time I ever see blue skies in Beijing was during the Olympics. I’ve never seen blue skies in Shanghai before. Not even during the World Expo. I asked my Chinese friends about air pollution and they said they are used to it as it is a daily thing. I wonder what the Chinese leaders in Beijing’s Zhongnanhai compound are feeling about haze in Beijing.
Health wise, of course we all know the impact of haze towards our health but haze and heart attack and stroke is something new. I come across this article in TIME issue February 27 by Alice Park, titled “Hazardous Haze” and later I browse for the complete article by her.
I feel that more people should know about this and the following article is extracted from

Air Pollution Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke
In two separate studies this week, researchers show that exposure to air pollution can boost the odds of heart attack or stroke — by as much as 5% and 34%, respectively.
Previous studies on air pollution and heart attack risk haven’t been very conclusive; some showed a positive link while others found no association and still others suggested that only select pollutants appeared to increase the risk of heart problems. To get a clearer sense of the data, Dr. Hazrije Mustafic, a cardiologist at University Paris Descartes, and her colleagues searched for all previous studies investigating air pollution and heart attacks, and winnowed the list down to the 34 that reliably measured exposure to pollutants and heart events occurring within a day later.
Overall, the researchers found that people exposed to higher levels of particulates and polluting gases, which include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, were anywhere from 0.5% to 5% more likely to experience a heart attack on the day of that exposure or on the following day.
Exposure to polluted air can damage the heart system in a variety of ways, starting by increasing inflammation, which can destabilize plaques in the heart arteries and trigger heart attacks. Toxic compounds in the air can also increase heart rate and make the heart less responsive when it needs to pump more or less blood, and slow down the circulatory system as a whole by making the blood thicker and more viscous.
In a separate study led by Gregory Wellenius at Brown University, scientists found that exposure to elevated levels of pollutants typically emitted by cars and trucks could trigger a stroke within hours. Even more disturbing was the fact that the risky levels were lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s danger zone for poor air quality; on all the days included in the study, the air quality, measured by the level of fine particulates from car exhaust, wood burning and power plant or manufacturing emissions, was considered satisfactory or moderate, meaning it posed potential health problems only to a small group of people.
To measure the link between air quality and stroke risk, researchers looked at patients who were admitted with stroke at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center between 1999 and 2008 and then correlated their hospital admissions with fine particulate readings from the Harvard School of Public Health’s ambient air monitoring station, located near the hospital campus and within 13 miles of 90% of the stroke patients’ homes.
According to the data, the risk of stroke was 34% higher after a 24-hour period of moderate air quality, in which concentrations of fine particulates measured 15-40 micrograms per cubic meter of air, compared with periods following a day of good air quality, in which the particulate concentration was less than 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Peak stroke risk occurred at about 12 hours after exposure to moderate quality air.
Our leaders should start to act tough with Indonesia - the haze exporter. No more excuse.

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