Study shows way in which air-polluting traffic increases risk of cardiovascular disease

Expert says study stresses the need to reduce the amount of air pollution to minimize morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular diseases.

Tel Aviv traffic. (photo credit: INIMAGE)
Tel Aviv traffic.
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
Pollution from vehicles – and not only from factories – triggers the development of cardiovascular diseases, according to research conducted at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.
Urban living and personal transport are popular, but they come at a price, says Prof. Michael Aviram, head of the lipid research lab at Rambam and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Rappaport Medical Faculty, along with Technion environmental engineering faculty lecturer Dr. Lorraine Patrick.
In recent years it has been published that Haifa and its environs have the highest cancer rate in the country.
Although no studies have pointed to the influence of pollution from the petroleum refineries and other factories, the connection is widely believed. But gasoline-powered vehicles are all over the country, and they have no less an effect on health, the researchers implied.
The research – soon be published in the journal Toxicology and Industrial Health – demonstrates “for the first time” the way that air pollution from vehicles can become a trigger for the development of cardiac and vascular diseases.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a central factor in air pollution from vehicles. The researchers checked the effects of CO on the accumulation of fatty plaques on the endothelial tissue inside the arteries, leading to heart attack and strokes.
The exposure of microphages (which are small white cells that gobble up harmful materials and represent cells inside the blood vessels) to CO raised the level of triglyceride fats in the cells by 60 percent and reduced by 30% the ability of “good cholesterol” (high-density lipoprotein) to remove excess cholesterol from the microphages.
Aviram said the innovative research “stresses the need to reduce the amount of air pollution to minimize morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular diseases.”