November 8, 2007

Diesel exhaust associated with higher heart attack and stroke risk in men, researchers say

Orlando, Florida – A new report by U.K. and Swedish researchers, presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2007, suggests that increased roadway pollution produced by diesel fuel in vehicles is leading to a cascade of conditions that could result in heart attack or stroke.

The researchers found that diesel exhaust increased clot formation and blood platelet activity in healthy volunteers, which could lead to heart attack and stroke. The double-blind, randomized study included 20 healthy men, 21 to 44 years old, who were separately exposed to filtered air, serving as a control, and to diluted diesel exhaust at a level comparable to curbside exposure on a busy street.

“The study results are closely tied with previous observational and epidemiological studies showing that shortly after exposure to traffic air pollution, individuals are more likely to suffer a heart attack,” said Andrew Lucking, M.D., lead author of the study and a cardiology fellow at the University of Edinburgh. “This study shows that when a person is exposed to relatively high levels of diesel exhaust for a short time, the blood is more likely to clot. This could lead to a blocked vessel resulting in heart attack or stroke.”

Lucking says that it is unclear whether the findings would apply to gasoline-powered engines; diesel engines generate many times more fine pollutant particles than comparably-sized gasoline engines. The researchers plan to collaborate again with researchers at the University of Umea in Sweden to test particle traps retrofitted on diesel engines to determine if they are effective in reducing diesel particles.

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