Air pollution impairs functioning of blood vessels in lungs

London: Increased exposure to gaseous air pollutants such as Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Ozone (O3) can impair the function of blood vessels in the lungs and raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a study.

The findings showed that air pollution is a major public health issue for people living in polluted urban areas where exercise could damage the lungs and potentially lead to decompensated heart failure.

“Air pollution is associated with increased pulmonary vascular tone which makes it more difficult for blood to flow to the lungs. Longer exposure to air pollution exposure seems necessary to impair right ventricular systolic function,” said lead author Jean-Francois Argacha, cardiologist at the University Hospital (UZ) in Brussels.

According to researchers, if air pollution causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the lungs — vasoconstriction — this combined with the systemic effects of air pollution, which consists of particulate matter of different sizes and gases such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone, could cause decompensated heart failure.

The study showed a negative effect of particulate matter — PM10, PM2.5 and ozone on pulmonary circulation.

Increase in PM10 and PM2.5 over ten days were associated with worse right ventricle function.

Specifically, increases in these pollutants were associated with reduced pulmonary acceleration time and increased pulmonary acceleration slope.

The negative impact of PM10 on pulmonary circulation was more pronounced in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea.

In addition, the study showed that exposure to diesel exhaust did not modify the pulmonary circulation compared to ambient air when the volunteers were resting but did when dobutamine was administered.

“This suggests that pollution is more harmful to the lung circulation during exercise,” Argacha said.

“Our main advice is to limit physical activities during heavy air pollution,” Argacha suggested in the study presented at annual meeting EuroEcho-Imaging 2016 in Leipzig, Germany.