Air pollution can have a serious impact on our health. A recent study has found that if exposed to air pollution for long-term, it can result in an increased risk of arrythmia or irregular heartbeat. According to an estimate, the common arrhythmia conditions atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter affect around 59.7 million people globally. These conditions can also progress to more serious heart disease.
The study said that air pollution is a modifiable risk factor for disease related to heart. However, the evidence linking it with arrythmia has been inconsistent.
As part of the study, the researchers evaluated hourly exposure to air pollution and the sudden onset of symptoms of arrhythmia. For this, the scientists used data from 2025 hospitals in 322 Chinese cities.
“During the research, we found that increased risk of symptomatic arrhythmia was linked to acute exposure to ambient air pollution,” said Renjie Chen, from Fudan University, Shanghai, China.
“While the risks occurred during the first several hours after exposure, researchers found that it could persist for 24 hours. The exposure and response relationships between six pollutants and four subtypes of arrhythmias were approximately linear without discernable thresholds of concentrations,” Chen said.
As part of the study, over 1.9 lakh patients were involved. They have an acute onset of symptomatic arrythmia. The are four main types of arrythmia – atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, premature beats and supraventricular tachycardia.
Exposure to ambient air pollution was most strongly associated with atrial flutter and supraventricular tachycardia, followed by atrial fibrillation and premature beats, the researchers said.
Among six pollutants, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) had the strongest association with all them, and the greater the exposure, the stronger the association, they said.
“Although the exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood, the association between air pollution and acute onset of arrhythmia that we observed is biologically plausible,” the authors said.