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 An new analysis of published studies found that air pollution is linked to high blood pressure. Yes, breathing polluted air has health effects (here, here, and here). From Science Daily:

High blood pressure linked to short-, long-term exposure to some air pollutants

Both short- and long-term exposure to some air pollutants commonly associated with coal burning, vehicle exhaust, airborne dust and dirt are associated with the development of high blood pressure, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension. "In our analysis of 17 previously-published studies we discovered a significant risk of developing high blood pressure due to exposure to air pollution," said Tao Liu, Ph.D., lead study author and deputy director and epidemiologist of the environmental health division at Guangdong Provincial Institute of Public Health in China.

Researchers performed a meta-analysis of available published studies in the world assessing the health effects of all air pollution on hypertension risk. Meta-analyses combine results from previous studies to estimate the overall effect of a particular variable on a result.....researchers focused on these air pollutants: sulfur dioxide (SO2), which mainly comes from the burning of fossil fuel; nitrogen oxide (NOx), which comes from fossil fuels burned at power plants and vehicle exhaust; Particulate matter (PM) are particles found in the air, including dust, dirt, smoke and liquid droplets. (PM 2.5 is smaller than a speck of dust, and the most common and hazardous type of air pollution. PM10 includes both PM2.5 and PM2.5-10).

The meta-analysis found high blood pressure was significantly associated with: short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide (SO2), PM2.5 and PM10; and long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is produced from combustion, and PM10. For the portion of the study that assessed short-term effects of ozone and carbon monoxide exposure, no significant associations were found. Researchers said ozone and carbon monoxide's links to high blood pressure requires further study.

Of the 5,687 air pollution studies initially identified, 17 were the focus of this -- which involves more than 108,000 hypertension patients and 220,000 non-hypertensive controls. High blood pressure was defined as systolic blood pressure more than 140 mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure over 90 mm Hg or by antihypertensive drug use. Air pollution exposure was assessed by averaging data from nearest air pollution monitoring stations, or using complex dispersion models or land use regression models.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Previous studies have indicated that air pollution might be a risk factor for hypertension but the results were controversial, Liu said. The mechanism by which air pollution could contribute to the development of high blood pressure includes inflammation and oxidative stress, which may lead to changes in the arteries.

 Another study finding negative health effects from air pollution. This year I've posted several studies that found negative effects on the brain (and even cognition) from air pollution for people of all ages. Now this latest study found that in areas with air pollution, long-term exposure to outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5),which are fine particles in the air, are linked to an overall increase in risk of death, especially due to cardiovascular disease. The fine particles in the air contribute to the development of potentially fatal heart and lung diseases because they slip past the body's defenses and can be absorbed deep into the lungs and bloodstream. They are not sneezed or coughed out the way larger natural particles, like airborne soil and sand, are removed from the body's airways. From Science Daily:

Link between air pollution, increased deaths and increased deaths from heart disease affirmed

In what is believed to be the largest, most detailed study of its kind in the United States, scientists at NYU Langone Medical Center and elsewhere have confirmed that tiny chemical particles in the air we breathe are linked to an overall increase in risk of death. The researchers say this kind of air pollution involves particles so small they are invisible to the human eye (at less than one ten-thousandth of an inch in diameter, or no more than 2.5 micrometers across).

In a report on the findings, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives online Sept. 15, the scientists conclude that even minuscule increases in the amount of these particles (by 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air, for example) lead to an overall increased risk of death from all causes by 3 percent -- and roughly a 10 percent increase in risk of death due to heart disease. For nonsmokers, the risk increase rises to 27 percent in cases of death due to respiratory disease.

"Our data add to a growing body of evidence that particulate matter is really harmful to health, increasing overall mortality, mostly deaths from cardiovascular disease, as well as deaths from respiratory disease in nonsmokers," says lead study investigator and health epidemiologist George Thurston, ScD, a professor of population health and environmental medicine at NYU Langone. "Our study is particularly notable because all the data used in our analysis comes from government- and independently held sources."

According to Thurston, fine particles can contribute to the development of potentially fatal heart and lung diseases because they slip past the body's defenses and can be absorbed deep into the lungs and bloodstream. They are not sneezed or coughed out the way larger natural particles, like airborne soil and sand, are removed from the body's airways. Moreover, Thurston says, fine particles are usually made of harmful chemicals such as arsenic, selenium, and mercury, and can also transport gaseous pollutants, including sulfur and nitrogen oxides, with them into the lungs.

For their research, Thurston and his colleagues evaluated data from a detailed health and diet survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The NIH-AARP study involved 566,000 male and female volunteers, ages 50 to 71, from California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and the metropolitan areas of Atlanta and Detroit. Analyzing information gathered about the participants between 2000 and 2009,....

Indeed, the team did not find any significant difference in the effect of particulate matter exposure between different sexes or age groups or by level of education. The researchers also noted that limiting the analysis to only the state of California, which has the most rigorous controls on air pollution, did not produce a different overall level of risk; instead, they found the same association between particulate matter exposure and increase in risk of death from all nonaccidental causes and from cardiovascular disease.