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Environmental Toxins Linked to Hardening of Arteries

TUESDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Environmental pollutants such as dioxins, PCBs and pesticides are associated with hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), according to a new study.

Atherosclerosis is the major underlying cause of cardiovascular diseases, which are the most common cause of death in industrialized countries, said the researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden.

They measured levels of persistent (long-lived and hard to degrade) organic environmental toxins in the blood of about 1,000 Swedes and also used ultrasound to assess atherosclerosis in the participants' neck arteries.

The researchers said they found a clear connection between increasing levels of organic environmental toxins and atherosclerosis, even after taking into account other risk factors.

The study appears Oct. 11 online, ahead of print in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"These findings indicate that long-lived organic environmental toxicants may be involved in the occurrence of atherosclerosis and thereby lead to future death from cardiovascular diseases," Lars Lind, a professor in the medical sciences department, said in a university news release.

"In Sweden, and in many countries in the world, many of these substances are forbidden today, but since they are so long-lived they're still out there in our environment. We ingest these environmental toxicants with the food we eat, and since they are stored in our bodies, the levels grow higher the older we get," said Monica Lind, an associate professor in environmental medicine, in the release.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about atherosclerosis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Uppsala University, news release, Oct. 6, 2011

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