Study reports link between air pollution and atherosclerosis

Study reports link between air pollution and atherosclerosis

A new research study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, suggests that chronic exposure to ambient ozone may cause atherosclerosis and harm arterial health. The study points out air pollution as a potential cause of triggering atherosclerosis. It enumerates the potential link between ozone exposure and atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis occurs when fatty deposits such as cholesterol, fat, or cellular waste accumulate inside the lining of arteries. This plaque, inside the blood vessels’ walls, thickens the arteries over time. The thickening of arterial walls restricts the flow of blood, nutrients, and oxygen through the vessels. As a consequence, dangerous cardiovascular events like coronary heart disease or peripheral artery disease, heart attack or stroke are likely to occur.

The possible factors triggering the condition are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cigarette smoking. In addition, this respective study reveals air pollution as another possible culprit to cause much of the damage.

Experts at the American Lung Association claim that ground-level ozone also damages lung tissue when we breathe it in. Ozone is a gas molecule that harms lung tissue by chemically reacting to it. It is frequently referred to as smog.

How does ozone exposure cause atherosclerosis?

For the experiment analysis, the research team clinically followed 6,619 adults. All of the subjects were 45–84 years old. Moreover, they did not have cardiovascular disease or any other conditions at the start of the study.

The participants or subjects under analysis were followed for a mean period of 6.5 years. They were enrolled in as part of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Also, they came from six cities across the United States including,

  • Winston-Salem, NC
  • New York City, NY
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Paul, MN
  • Chicago, IL
  • Los Angeles, CA

The research team used statistical models to capture whether there are significant associations between ozone exposure and atherosclerosis. According to the results, the models suggested that there is a potential association between long-term exposure to ozone and the progression of atherosclerosis.

In particular, the study reported an association between chronic ozone exposure and an elevated rate of carotid wall thickness progression and risk of new plaque formation. The results of the study suggested arterial injury in the carotid arteries. Adding to your information, carotid arteries are the two large vessels that supply blood to the head and neck.

This may signify that the association between long-term exposure to ozone and cardiovascular mortality is because of the arterial injury and acceleration of atherosclerosis.


The researchers couldn’t find out the reasonable mechanism causing this link. According to them, they are still in dark regarding what may form this link. The biological mechanism for this association, between the ozone and outcome, is not well understood.

This study is significant as it is among the pioneer studies addressing the issue. As per the research team, this study is the first epidemiological study to examine the link between ozone exposure and subclinical vascular disease. This disease is characterized by injuries that damage the artery walls before a heart attack or a stroke occurs.

The researchers encourage more and more studies regarding the subject to enumerate its hidden facts. Government and the public should take steps to minimize pollution as it may save us from serious health threats.

Maria Kovacs

Maria is fascinated with research, technology and everything that involves Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She is an avid medical writer and often writes content based on the latest research in Health and Medicine. Twitter- @MariaKo51853208

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