Breathing dirty air causes stress hormones to spike, new research suggests, which could help explain why long-term exposure to pollution is associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a shorter life span.
Dr. Haidong Kan of Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and colleagues looked specifically at the health effects of particulate matter (PM), small particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, from industrial sources, that can be inhaled and become lodged in the lungs. While PM levels have gone down in North America in recent years, they are on the rise worldwide.
“This research adds new evidence on how exposure to PM could affect our bodies, which may (ultimately) lead to higher cardiovascular risk,” Dr. Kan told Reuters Health in an email interview. “Our result may indicate that particulate matter could affect the human body in more ways than we currently know. Thus, it is increasingly necessary for people to understand the importance of reducing their PM exposure.”
The new study, published in Circulation, included 55 healthy college students in Shanghai, a city with pollution levels in the middle range compared to other Chinese cities, according to Dr. Kan.