Heart Attacks of Non-Smokers Can Be Caused by Pollution, Study Shows

At the recently concluded ESC (European Society of Cardiology) Congress, researchers shared new proof that air pollution impacts a person’s cardiovascular health. The study specifically shows that toxic air and cardiac incidents among non-smokers are linked.

Researchers conducted the study among over 17,000 patients in Berlin who had a heart attack sometime between the years 2008 and 2014. They also chose their subjects according to aspects like age, sex, diabetes diagnosis, and smoking status. Other essential factors were also taken into consideration, including temperatures (minimum and maximum), the number of sunshine hours, the level of precipitation, and the daily readings on nitric oxide and PM10 particulate matter.

The frequency or occurrences of heart attacks, weather conditions at the time the cardiac event happened (as well as 24 hours before and three days prior to the incident), and the pollutant concentrations were cross-referenced.

According to research findings, every time nitric oxide increased by 10µg/m3, there was an increase of 1% in heart attack rates among non-smokers. Additionally, the high concentrations of PM10 three days prior to the incident were also connected to a 4% increase for every 10µg/m3 increase, which resulted in an increase in cardiac emergencies.

However, researchers found out as well that the situation is a little different when the weather is warmer as cardiac incidents are lower by at least 6% each time there is a 10C temperature rise.

The research clearly proves toxic air is a strong risk factor for heart attack or acute myocardial infarction. Exposure to PM10 and nitric oxide often results in inflammation, which is a primary cause of atherosclerosis.

An earlier study conducted in April also has similar findings. Additionally, the World Health Organization has recognised the life-threatening effects of exposure to high levels of polluted air. The attack, according to the study, can happen in the space of 60 minutes into the exposure.

Berlin Brandenburg Myocardial Infarction Registry’s (B2HIR) Dr. Insa de Buhr-Stockburger, author of the study, stressed the need for stricter, more targeted efforts in reducing air pollution, particularly toxic emissions coming from combustion and road traffic.

Air pollution from vehicle emissions

Vehicle emissions, particularly from diesel-powered cars, are made up of nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). When these two gases combine and react, they form NOx or nitrogen oxide (or oxides of nitrogen), a heavy and dangerous pollutant.

NOx is known to form acid rain and smog. When it combines with other chemicals, it produces ground-level ozone, a pollutant that affects vegetation. Crops and plants that are exposed to ground-level ozone become susceptible to frost and damage. The pollutant also stunts their growth.

Mental health issues and cognitive skills can also be affected when a person is exposed to nitrogen oxide. Several studies have come out that show a link between NOx emissions and depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairments such as dementia.

Exposure to nitrogen oxide also causes several mild and serious health impacts. Low-level exposure can lead to negative effects such as breathing problems, fluid in the lungs, chronic headaches, asthma attacks, dizziness and nausea, fatigue, and respiratory issues such as emphysema and bronchitis.

High-level NOx exposure may cause serious health conditions, the most common of which are chronic reduction of lung function, laryngospasm (also known as spasm of the vocal cords), asphyxiation, increased risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease, lung tissue damage, and premature death.

Nitrogen oxide emissions are at the centre of the diesel emissions scandal, which started in September 2015. The Dieselgate scam affected carmakers, Volkswagen being the initial one involved.

The Dieselgate defeat devices and NOx emissions

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board called on the Volkswagen Group officials when they discovered defeat devices in VW and Audi diesel vehicles sold in the US.

A defeat device knows when a vehicle is about to be tested for emissions as it is engineered to do so. The device then masks emissions levels by keeping them within the limits set by the WHO (World Health Organization). So, in the lab, the vehicle appears environmentally safe and fuel-efficient.

However, once the vehicle is brought out of the lab and driven on real roads, it automatically switches to its default settings, which causes it to release massive amounts of NOx. As such, the owners of these cars unknowingly contribute to toxic air while driving around towns and cities.

Aside from Volkswagen, authorities have also identified Mercedes-Benz as among the other carmakers that installed defeat devices in their vehicles. They deceived their customers and lied about the vehicles being clean and safe. Affected car owners contribute to toxic air every time they drove around towns and cities without their knowledge.

This gives car owners the right to claim compensation from their carmakers.

Claiming compensation

Claiming compensation for the diesel emissions scandal can be challenging and often take months (or years) to finish. This is why it’s advisable to work with a panel of emissions solicitors. The first thing a car owner has to do, however, is to check their eligibility for a diesel claim.

You can check if you have the right to claim Diesel compensation by working with ClaimExperts.co.uk. They’ll help point you in the right direction for your diesel emissions claim.