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Air pollution raises blood pressure

May 17, 2010 |  5:24 pm

Mexicocity My blood pressure just jumped up: People who live in urban areas are more likely to have hypertension, and the effects are greater in women than men, according to German researchers.

The scientists reported their findings at the current meeting of the American Thoracic Society in New Orleans. Though you could imagine all kinds of stresses are linked to city dwelling, this study — of 5,000 people who were part of something called the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study — fingers fine particulates in the atmosphere. Blood pressure ups and downs correlated with higher or lower levels of these particulates.

You can read more about the study in this BBC News report

And here's a press release describing the study's nuts and bolts.

Both systolic and diastolic pressure went up, and effects were seen for the finest particles — ones less than 2.5 microns across, which are emitted mostly from traffic exhaust and other types of combustion — and the coarser fine particles, those less than 10 microns in diameter.

Check out an Environmental Protection Agency Web page to learn more about these two classes of particles and where ones of different sizes come from. The page also has a U.S. map providing current and forecasted air pollution levels for your area (ours right now is moderate for pm2.5 particles, as the tinier class is termed). 

Finally, here are some ways you can contribute to cleaner air.

— Rosie Mestel

Photo: Mexico City earlier this month. Credit: Sashenka Gutierrez / EPA