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Air pollution can trigger an irregular heartbeat in teenagers

The fumes vomited by cars, buses and power plants can cause an irregular heartbeat in teens, increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease or even sudden death, scientists have suggested.

Penn State University researchers found that nearly 80 percent of the 17-year-olds in the city they followed suffered from the condition, known medically as an arrhythmia. They blamed particulate matter from exhaust gases that entered the lungs and blood, causing inflammation.

Air quality in many U.S. cities has improved dramatically since the 1970s and 1980s, but many experts warn that the fumes released by vehicles and industry remain a threat to human health. According to the World Health Organization, one billion people breathe unhealthy air every day.

Scientists behind the study said it was the first to find that young people could develop heart problems as a result of air pollution. Previously, this link was only suggested in adults.

Scientists at Penn State University found that four-fifths of the 300 teens they tracked had irregular heartbeats for 24 hours.  They blame this on air pollution.  (File photo of pollution in New York City)

Scientists at Penn State University found that four-fifths of the 300 teens they tracked had irregular heartbeats for 24 hours. They blame this on air pollution. (File photo of pollution in New York City)

The above shows the average levels of air pollution (black bars) recorded among the participants over 24 hours.  They were measuring PM2.5 levels, a particle released from car exhaust.  The Environmental Protection Agency says levels should not exceed 35 mg/m3

The above shows the average levels of air pollution (black bars) recorded among the participants over 24 hours.  They were measuring PM2.5 levels, a particle released from car exhaust.  The Environmental Protection Agency says levels should not exceed 35 mg/m3

The above shows the average levels of air pollution (black bars) recorded among the participants over 24 hours. They were measuring PM2.5 levels – a particle released from car exhaust. The Environmental Protection Agency says levels should not exceed 35 mg/m3

For the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Associationthe scientists analyzed data from another paper completed in 2017.

In this study — called the Penn State Child Cohort Study — about 700 children ages six to 12 were recruited from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to have their cardiovascular health checked.

Seven and a half years later, they were invited for a follow-up appointment, when most were about 17 years old.

As part of the original study, each was exposed to approximately 17 micrograms of particulate matter (ug/m3 — PM2.5) — or air pollution — in the air per day, which is half the safe limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Protection Agency. .

At the time, they were also equipped with a device to monitor air pollution and a separate device to check for irregular heart rhythms for 24 hours.

What is PM2.5?

PM2.5 is a small piece of a solid or liquid suspended in the air.

It can include metals, microplastics, soils and chemicals.

PM2.5 is often emitted when burning substances, such as fuel in a car or tobacco in a cigarette.

But it can also become airborne when particles on a surface are disrupted by sudden movements.

The particles can get into the eyes, ears, nose and throat and cause irritation.

Studies have shown that they can worsen asthma and heart disease.

Irregular heart rhythms are premature contractions of the heart muscle, often described as a ‘missed beat’.

The team looked for two types: premature atrial contractions, when the atria — the heart’s upper chambers — contract early, and premature ventricular contractions, or when the ventricles — lower chambers — contract early.

The results showed that 79 percent of the participants had at least one irregular heart rhythm during the 24-hour study period.

Of these, 48 percent had both types, 40 percent had only premature atrial contraction, and 12 percent had only premature ventricular contraction.

There was no association between PM concentration and number of irregular contractions.

People who suffer from an irregular heartbeat may feel a fluttering or racing sensation in their chest.

But in more severe cases, it can also cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and fainting.

Doctors warn that this can lead to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

And in rare cases, it can cause sudden cardiac death — when a malfunction in the heart disrupts its pumping action, causing a person to lose consciousness seconds later. Death occurs within minutes without treatment.

dr. Fan He, a public health expert and lead author of the study, said: ‘It is alarming that we have been able to observe such a significant impact of air pollution on cardiac arrhythmias when air quality remained well within health-based standards. by the EPA.

‘It may indicate that young people who live in highly polluted areas such as inner cities are at even greater risk.’

Levels of PM2.5 – the larger type of particulate matter – often exceed minimum safety levels in many U.S. cities.

In New York City, levels have reached 30 (ug/m3) this week, data from local air quality monitoring stations shows, while in Los Angeles they have reached 18.5.

To combat pollution, he recommended wearing masks and avoiding vigorous physical activity when pollution levels are higher, such as during the early morning rush hour.

Exposure to air pollution in 2017 was associated with more than seven million premature deaths, a study suggested.

dr. Robert Brook, a cardiovascular disease expert at Wayne State University in Detroit who was not involved in the study, said: “The most interesting and significant aspect of this study is clearly that the results were found in healthy young adolescents.

“The study adds support for the concern that even healthy young people are not immune to adverse cardiovascular reactions.”

He added: “It is plausible that the findings help explain the possible reason for the onset of arrhythmias and even sudden death in some susceptible young people.”