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Beijing's Olympic Smog Shows Pollution's Effect on Health
Date:5/15/2012

By Carina Storrs
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- With the 2012 Olympics set to begin in London this summer, a new study on air quality during the 2008 Beijing Olympics delivers an important public health message: Reducing air pollution levels could lower the risk of heart trouble for many.

Four years ago, an international team of researchers took advantage of changes in air quality surrounding the 2008 Olympics, to see what health effects those changes might bring. The Chinese government had agreed to limit the use of motor vehicles and the operating hours of power plants in an effort to lower air pollution levels during the games. Once the international sporting event, and the accompanying restrictions, had ended, air pollution levels rebounded.

In the months before, during and after the 2008 Olympics, the researchers took measurements from 125 medical residents in Beijing, tracking their blood pressure and various biomarkers associated with heart disease. They found that rising air pollution levels drove up blood pressure and blood-clotting factors in the otherwise healthy medical residents.

"Studies have shown an association between air pollution and strokes or heart attacks," said study author Junfeng (Jim) Zhang, a professor of environmental and global health at the University of Southern California. "[But] they have not really looked into what we have addressed, which is how air pollution affects the heart."

"If pollution continues, and the burdens of blood-clotting factors are kept at elevated levels, I think there will be adverse consequences long-term," including increases in heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular deaths, Zhang added.

Previous research has also linked air pollution, especially the tiny particles in exhaust fumes known as particulate matter, to asthma, lung cancer and diabetes.

The study was published May 16 in the Journal of the American
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