A recent study from Rice University, located in Houston, TX, has shown a direct correlation between out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and levels of air pollution and ozone.
Rice University statisticians Katherine Ensor and Loren Raun, presented their findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), being held in Boston. The study was held over 8 years, which took samples from air quality monitors and with participation from the Houston Emergency Medical Services (EMS), compared it to 11,000 coinciding cardiac arrests. The researchers found that increases in fine particular matter in the environment of 6 micrograms per day over two days raised the risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest by 4.6 percent. Ozone levels also have a similar effect – increases of 20 parts per billion over one to three hours raises the chances of cardiac arrest by up to 4.4 percent.
Houston is ranked to be the eighth highest city to have high ozone days, so although the findings are specific to that city, it proved to be a good place to find the correlation. The co-author of the study, David Persse, is a Houston Fire Deparment EMS physician director and a public-health authority in the city. He said that EMS workers have suspected for some time that types of air pollution such as ozone have negative effects on cardiac health and that the study validates those suspicions mathematically and scientifically now.
In response, the city of Houston is increasing its efforts towards cardiac arrest in relation to the new study. The city’s EMS services are ramping up their preparedness for cardiac arrest on high ozone days and have also identified high-risk communities and are making major efforts to improve educational resources and prepare citizens with intensive CPR training.
It isn’t all that surprising to find out that pollution levels affect yet another aspect of a person’s health. Earlier studies have shown air pollution raises the chances of stroke and it has become common knowledge that pollution is detrimental to many respiratory illnesses. In addition to preparing for cardiac arrest, Houston’s Health and Human Services Department said that there is no substitute for trying to improve air quality and so they are developing strategic ways to better ozone levels.
Of course, the first step is awareness. Studies like this one have shown that the air we breathe can also have an effect on the rest of our body; our heart. To protect our hearts and the hearts of future generations, we should be aware of how we contribute to pollution and what we can do to decrease that amount.