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newsrel -- Fine particle pollution a threat to the cardiovascular health of Californians

Posted: 08 Dec 2011 12:43:50
Three new studies show fine particles linked to health risks

Release #:11-53

ARB PIO: (916) 322-2990

Dimitri Stanich

Fine particle pollution a threat to the cardiovascular health of

Three new studies show fine particles linked to health risks

SACRAMENTO - Three new studies released today by the California
Air Resources Board reveal that exposure to airborne
fine-particulate matter significantly elevates the risk for
premature deaths from heart disease in older adults and elevates
incidence of strokes among post-menopausal women.  Heart disease
is the number one killer in California and is responsible for
approximately 35% of annual deaths.

The California Air Resources Board commissioned the studies to
further investigate the connection between fine particulate
pollution and public health impacts in California.  The two
population studies were co-sponsored by the South Coast Air
Quality Management District.

“We’ve long known particulate matter is a major component of
California’s air pollution problem,” said ARB Chairman Mary D.
Nichols.  “These new studies underscore the need to eliminate the
threat from California’s air.”

Particulate matter is a complex blend of substances ranging from
dry solid fragments, solid-core fragments with liquid coatings,
and small droplets of liquid. These particles vary in shape, size
and chemical composition, and can contain metals, soot, nitrates,
sulfates and very fine dust. One source of particulate matter,
including PM2.5 or fine-particulate –matter, is exhaust from
vehicles, especially from diesel engines. PM 2.5 is particulate
matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter - a human hair is
about 60 microns in diameter.

“It is crucial that we better understand the health threat posed
by fine particulates,” said South Coast Air Quality Management
District’s Chairman William A. Burke, Ed.D.  “This research will
help us develop strategies for further reducing particulate
pollution in Southern California and across the state.”

Michael Jerrett, Ph.D., of the University of California,
Berkeley, found that exposure to fine particulate matter
significantly elevated the risks for premature death from heart
disease.  The most frequent cause of death associated with PM2.5
in this study was ischemic heart disease, which can lead to heart
attacks and heart failure.  The findings of this study are based
on the California participants in a large study sponsored by the
American Cancer Society, which tracked 76,000 adults from 1982 to

In another study, Michael Lipsett, M.D., of the California
Department of Public Health, led a team that examined the effects
of chronic air pollution exposure on heart disease in women.  The
project tracked over 100,000 current and former female public
school teachers and administrators in California.  Like the
University of California, Berkeley study, Dr. Lipsett found that
exposure to PM2.5 elevated the risks for premature mortality from
ischemic heart disease.  In addition, this study found an
increased risk of stroke among women who had never had one
before, particularly among those who were post-menopausal.

These two studies demonstrate a relationship between long-term
PM2.5 exposure and cardiovascular effects, such as heart attacks
and strokes.

The third study, by Fern Tablin, V.M.D., Ph.D., and Dennis
Wilson, D.V.M., Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis,
investigated how inhaled PM2.5 could contribute to heart attacks
and strokes.  A common cause of heart attacks and strokes is
development of clots in the blood stream.  One suggested
explanation is that PM2.5 exposure activates platelets, the key
cells involved in blood clotting, so that they form clots and
then trigger heart attacks and strokes.  Drs. Tablin and Wilson
examined the platelets of mice exposed to PM2.5 from the San
Joaquin Valley Air Basin, and found that mice exposed to fine
particulate matter showed platelet activation in both winter and
summer, which could promote clotting and lead to stroke and heart

These new studies add to the existing scientific literature
indicating that microscopic airborne particles pose a threat to
public health.  California Air Resources Board calculations of
combined cardiovascular and respiratory (i.e., cardiopulmonary)
deaths associated with PM2.5 exposure are based on the results of
the national American Cancer Society study.  Annually, 7,300 to
11,000 premature cardiopulmonary deaths in California are
estimated to be associated with exposures to fine particulate
matter.  A breakdown by air basin is available on page 32 of ARB
‘s report estimating the premature death associated with PM2.5
exposure, which can be found on ARB’s website:

Links to the studies:

    Michael Jerrett:
    Michael Lipsett:
    Fern Tablin:

ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare,
and ecological resources through effective reduction of air
pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the
economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in
California to attain and maintain health based air quality

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