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General Health : Environment Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Air pollution linked to blood clots
By Ben Wasserman
May 13, 2008 - 9:45:13 AM

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TUESDAY May 13, 2008 ( – Long-term exposure to a type of air pollution, the air-borne fine particles, appears to dramatically increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis, a condition that can lead to a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, according to a study in the May 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Deep vein thrombosis (throm-BO-sis), or DVT, is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. Most deep vein blood clots occur in the lower leg or thigh although they can also occur in other parts of the body. This type of clots is dangerous when they break loose and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing pulmonary embolism.

The study showed that people with DVT tended to have a higher exposure to air pollution than controls.  After considering other factors, researchers found an increase in particulate matter of 10 micrograms per cubic meter increased the risk of DVT by 70 percent.  Blood from people exposed to more air pollution of this sort needed less time to clot.

Air pollution with particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter or about one-40th the width of a human hair has been known to increase risk of a number of diseases including asthma, chronic bronchitis, heart attack, stroke and death in people with heart or lung disease.  

Particulate air pollution can be caused by a range of fine particles often coming from the exhaust of vehicles, particularly those with diesel engines and burning of fossil fuels.  It can be caused also by other pollutants such as road dust, fly ask, wood smoke and sulfate aerosols.

National Resources Defense Council estimated that particulate air pollution causes approximately 64,000 premature deaths from cardiopulmonary causes each year, accounting for 6.5% of all cardiopulmonary deaths - 986,000 per year.

Dr. Andrea Baccarelli an assistant professor at the University of Milan and colleagues conducted the study at the Harvard School of Public Health. They compared 870 residents with DVT in the Lombardy region of Italy with 1,210 residents without this condition for their exposure to the air pollution of particulate matter between 1995 and 2005.

The researchers found the association between fine particle exposure and blood clots was stronger in men than in women, but non-existent among women taking oral contraceptives or hormone therapy, which are known independent risk factors for DVT as the current study confirmed.

"Given the magnitude of the observed effects and the widespread diffusion of particulate pollutants, our findings introduce a novel and common risk factor into the pathogenesis of deep vein thrombosis and, at the same time, give further substance to the call for tighter standards and continued efforts aimed at reducing the impact of urban air pollutants on human health," the researchers conclude.

© 2004-2008 by unless otherwise specified

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