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May 28 Webinar on Air Quality and Healthy Hearts: Progress and Remaining Challenges

Digital rendering of a human heart and torsoPublished May 6, 2020

EPA’s Air and Energy Research Program invites you to a webinar on May 28 from 2:00-3:30 p.m. EDT on “Air Quality and Healthy Hearts: Progress and Remaining Challenges.” The webinar will highlight research on the impacts of air pollution on the cardiovascular system and provide new findings by EPA scientists and their colleagues that help to fill key knowledge gaps in the study of air pollution and cardiovascular disease.

Webinar presentations will be provided by EPA’s Dr. Wayne Cascio, director of EPA’s Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment (CPHEA), Dr. Ana Rappold, CPHEA statistician, and Dr. Cavin Ward-Caviness, CPHEA computational biologist.

The findings, published in leading scientific journals, offer new insights into the progress made to protect at-risk individuals with chronic health problems. The research also identifies remaining environmental health challenges, such as determining risks faced from sustained exposure to elevated PM2.5 from wildfire smoke.,  

Research shows that exposure to airborne fine particulate matter (PM2.5), also known as soot, is associated with adverse cardiovascular health events including heart attacks, stroke, and death―particularly among those with pre-existing conditions. While PM2.5 levels have been declining along with associated cardiovascular health impacts, some people remain more vulnerable than others. EPA’sPM Integrated Science Assessments summarize the science on the health effects of this pollutant.

The four featured studies provide additional information to our current understanding of the cardiovascular health effects of PM2.5 pollution. They are:

  • A studyExit published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that reductions in ambient concentrations of PM2.5 have contributed to reductions in cardiovascular mortality across the U.S. Since 1990, cardiovascular mortality has decreased dramatically due primarily to lifestyle changes and improved healthcare. This study suggests that 5.7% of this decline was related to the reduction in ambient PM2.5 concentrations.
  • A  studyExit in Environment International examined the relationship between air quality improvements and changes in cardiovascular mortality rates between 1990-2010 across communities with different socioeconomic characteristics. The study’s authors found that, while PM2.5-related cardiovascular mortality decreased overall, communities with the lowest socioeconomic status experienced the smallest change in cardiovascular mortality over time.
  • A  study Exitin Journal of the American Heart Association focused on the effects of long-term air pollution exposure on heart failure patients, an understudied population. The results suggest that elevated PM2.5 exposures, even at concentrations below national standards, lead to a statistically significant mortality risk of 11 percent in these individuals. The authors add that a better understanding of environmental risks and mitigating PM2.5 exposure can lead to substantial benefits for heart failure patients.
  • Another studyExit in Journal of the American Heart Association examined the link between wildfire smoke and cardiovascular health. The study’s authors investigated wildfire smoke exposure during the 2015-2017 California wildfires and found it was associated with increased risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, with greater impacts seen in lower socioeconomic communities. These results underscore the importance of counseling patients to reduce their potential exposure to wildfire smoke, especially in wildfire-prone areas and among sensitive populations.

Learn more:

Air Quality and Healthy Hearts: Progress and Remining Challenges webinar

Healthy Heart Toolkit and Research

EPA’s PM ISA