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Air Pollution tied to higher rates of Hospitalizations due to Heart Disease, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 18, 2015 04:59 PM EST

Exposure to air pollution can be deadly for seniors, a new study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported.

For this study, the team examined the effects of a specific type of air pollution on people living in major urban areas who were aged 65 and above. The pollutants that the researchers focused on were between the sizes of 2.5 to 10 microns in diameters and were produced by construction, farming or wind from the desert. The pollution data came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) air monitoring networks that were located in 110 large urban areas throughout the U.S.

"Just because the particles are the same size doesn't mean they are made of the same material," study leader Roger D. Peng, PhD, an associate professor of biostatistics at the Bloomberg School explained reported by MedicalXpress, explained. "It's possible that the chemical composition of the particles in the east could make them more toxic."

The researchers also examined hospitalization records of Medicare patients living in the same urban areas between 1999 and 2010. All of the counties had more than 20,000 Medicare patients in 2010. These counties also must have equipment that tracked and monitored fine and coarse pollutants for a minimum of 200 days.

Overall, there were 6.38 million hospitalizations due to cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks. There were also 2.51 million emergency hospitalizations due to respiratory complications. The team found that on days with higher levels of coarse particles in the air, more seniors were hospitalized due to heart issues.

"We suspected that there was an association between coarse particles and health outcomes, but we didn't have the research to back that up before," Peng said. "This work provides the evidence, at least for cardiovascular disease outcomes. I don't feel like we need another study to convince us. Now it's time for action."

The study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

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