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Ultrafine Particle Pollution Can Cause Direct Damage to Cardiovascular System

Numerous studies have shown that increased levels of air pollution are positively associated with cardiovascular illness and death. Although most studies have focused on the influence of systemic effects triggered by the impact of pollution on the lungs, a new review published in the 26 August issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) highlights that ultrafine particles may be translocated into the circulation and directly transported to the vasculature and heart where they can injure the heart and blood vessels, increase rates of hospitalization for cardiac illness, and can even cause death.

Particulate pollution is categorized into three main classes: coarse particles with aerodynamic diameter (AD) 2.5 to 10 µm (PM10); fine particles (AD <2.5 µm; PM2.5), and ultrafine particles (AD <0.1 µm; UFPs). PM10 particles related to human activities come from numerous sources including road and agricultural dust and tire wear emissions. Fine particles are mainly generated by gas to particle conversions and during fuel combustion and industrial activities. The primary contributors to UFPs are tailpipe emissions from mobile sources (motor vehicles, aircraft, and marine vessels).

We used to think air pollution was a problem that primarily affects the lungs. We now know it is also bad for the heart,” said Robert A. Kloner, M.D., Ph.D., director of research at the Heart Institute of the Good Samaritan Hospital, and a professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, both in Los Angeles.

When pollutants are inhaled, they trigger an increase in reactive oxygen species that damage cells, cause inflammation in the lungs, and spark the cascade of harmful effects in the heart and cardiovascular system.

However, recent research highlighted in the JACC paper suggests that ultrafine air pollutants, such as those coming from car exhaust, may pass into the blood stream and damage the heart and blood vessels directly. Hearts directly exposed to ultrafine air pollutants show an immediate decrease in both coronary blood flow and the heart’s pumping function, as well as a tendency to develop arrhythmias, according to studies conducted at the Heart Institute of the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California.

There doesn’t have to be an environmental catastrophe for air pollution to cause injury. We’re talking about very modest increases. Air pollution can be dangerous at levels that are within the accepted air quality standards.

—Boris Z. Simkhovich, M.D., Ph.D, Heart Institute and Keck School of Medicine


  • Boris Z. Simkhovich, Michael T. Kleinman, and Robert A. Kloner (2008) Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Injury Epidemiology, Toxicology, and Mechanisms. J Am Coll Cardiol, doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2008.05.029


Henry Gibson

Very few particles get into the air from Nuclear reactors. And there are few CO2 releases either. ..HG..


I seem to recall internet discussions lamenting the direction that diesel emission regulation and resulting design were going. The speculation was that requirements, while eliminating larger particulates, were simply shifting the bulk of the emissions into the area of ultra fine particles. In these earlier discussions, the "badness" of the smaller particles had to do with the human body's inability to scrub them from the lungs.

This article is just piling on ....


Henry G:

You could add Solar and Wind to an energy mix based on Nuclear.


People living close to neighbours using wood burning stoves and/or fire places and coal fired power plants have been suffering (and dying) from fine particles for years.

Schools are moving away from highways in Europe to protect children from diesel exhaust.

Over 20 000 Canadians will die prematurely from similar pollution in 2008 (today's Health Canada report). Five to ten times more will suffer from associated sickness.


Don't attack just diesels UFPs also arise for gasoline engines particularly when the direct injection is implemented.

Aftertreatment will not capture these UFPs unless it would be extremely fine and this would create a very high pressure in the engines exhaust system with a detremental effect on engine efficiency.

So we will have to go to electric vehicles and suffer PM10's from tyres and road dust etc. I wonder at what speed does tyre related debrise become airborn and therefore present a hazzard? Maybe we could travel more slowly!


Ultra-fine particles come from more than vehicles: pyrotechnics, fireplaces, forest fires, etc. Out here in CA, there are limitations being put on fireplaces, and outdoor grilling, but none on pyrotechnics. Thus Disneyland (and Disney World, plus who knows how many other commercial venues) shoot off fireworks, night after night. Disney talks as if the parks are pro-environment, but are they?

stas peterson

All this wonderful and scary information brought to you simply because these ultra-fine particles can be measured, for the first time. You would think the death rate was soaring, and life expectancy was declining precipitously.

I'm sure the these reports are produced by the earnest, and beneficent, Altruism of the ambulance-chasing tort bar. Who never met a deleterious or non deleterious substance, that they won't, or can't demonize. Then class action sue to enrich themselves. Such are the actions of the out-of-control, evil, "Big Law".

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