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Air Pollution & Heart Disease

February 18, 2008

Ultrafine particles of air pollution may interact with cholesterol in our bodies to cause heart disease.


Air pollution and your heart. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Everyone knows air pollution is bad for your lungs. Now a new study suggests that it could also harm your heart. According to clinical cardiologist Jesus Araujo of UCLA, the most damaging component of air pollution consists of ultrafine particles a thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. In mice, these particles react with so-called "bad" cholesterol in the body. Together they promote oxidative stress and inflammation, which hardens arteries. Not only that, but ultrafine pollution may actually reverse the protective effects of so-called "good" cholesterol.

JESUS ARAUJO (University of California, Los Angeles):
Exposure to these pollutants inactivates the protective qualities of the good cholesterol.

He says researchers have overlooked the dangers of such tiny particles in the past. But the smaller the particle, the more damage it may do. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.