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Global Warming May Trigger Rise in Heart Deaths
Date:11/21/2007

and stroke. However, when the ozone level was at its highest, there was a more than an 8 percent increase in deaths from heart disease and stroke, Ren's group found.

The findings are published Nov. 21 in the online edition of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Ozone is a pollutant strongly linked to weather conditions, particularly the amount of ultraviolet light in the atmosphere. Ozone is generated by a reaction between airborne nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and oxygen in sunlight.

Exposure to high levels of ozone can affect the airways and the autonomic nervous system, making people more susceptible to the effects of temperature changes, Ren's team explained.

One expert agreed with the team's conclusions.

"This paper reinforces what we know -- that both temperature and ozone affect health, even to the extent that they affect mortality," said George Thurston, an associate professor of environmental medicine at New York University.

Global warming will increase both temperatures and pollution, Thurston added, because higher temperatures are conducive to the production of ozone. "This will be a growing problem," he said.

For the general public, the study raises questions about pollution and climate change, Thurston said. "The health effects may be even worse than thought," he said. "There are health benefits to reducing climate change."

Cutting back on the use of fossil fuels will help, Thurston said. "Reducing fossil fuel combustion will reduce climate change and pollution," he said. "We have seen the problem, and it's fossil fuel combustion. Now, all we have to do is come up with an alternative," he said.

More information

For more on heart disease, stroke and pollution, visit the American Heart Association.

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