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Traffic-Related Air Pollution Associated with Changes in Right Ventricular Structure

May 1, 2014 at 12:07 am

BLUE-Cover-May1-14Exposure to high levels of traffic-related air pollution is associated with changes in the right ventricle of the heart that may contribute to the known connection between air pollution exposure and heart disease, according to a study in the May 1 American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

“Although the link between traffic-related air pollution and left ventricular hypertrophy, heart failure, and cardiovascular death is established, the effects of traffic-related air pollution on the right ventricle have not been well studied,” says lead author Peter Leary, MD, MS, of the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. “Using exposure to nitrogen dioxide as a surrogate for exposure to traffic-related air pollution, we were able to demonstrate for the first time that higher levels of exposure were associated with greater right ventricular mass and larger right ventricular end-diastolic volume. Greater right ventricular mass is also associated with increased risk for heart failure and cardiovascular death.”

The study involved 3,896 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis who were free of clinical cardiovascular disease and who underwent cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using estimated exposure to outdoor oxides of nitrogen at the homes of participants over the year preceding MRI, the authors found that increased exposure to nitrogen dioxide was associated with an approximately 1.0 g (5 percent) increase in right ventricular mass and a 4.1 mL (3%) increase in right ventricular end-diastolic volume.

These relationships remained after accounting for differences among participants in cardiovascular risk factors, left ventricular mass and volume, markers of inflammation, lung disease and socioeconomic status.

“The morphologic changes in the right ventricle of the heart that we found with increased exposure to nitrogen dioxide add to the body of evidence supporting a connection between traffic-related air pollution and cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Leary says. “The many adverse effects of air pollution on human health support continued efforts to reduce this burden.”

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