New evidence is emerging from the Wasatch Front about the effects of air pollution on health, thanks to researchers at Intermountain Medical Center who studied heart attacks over more than two decades. What they found in the four Wasatch Front counties is that, when concentrations of microscopic soot pollution reach 25 parts per million concentration, the likelihood of suffering what’s called a STEMI heart attack goes up too.
“We do think that the exposure does trigger heart attacks,” says Kent Meredith, a cardiologist at IMC who shared the study’s findings this weekend at an American Heart Association meeting. “And it seems to be around the order of [a] 15 percent increase over that person’s baseline risk of heart attack on any given day.”
The study looked at more than 16,000 patients. It found that pollution didn’t have a significant impact on some types of heart attacks, like unstable angina. But the pollution link played a big role in heart attacks that occur when arteries are so badly clogged that the heart muscle can’t get enough blood. Researchers found these heart attacks rise along with PM 2.5 pollution levels, mostly during winter inversions.
Meredith says his team hopes heart patients, their doctors and policy makers pay attention.
“Unfortunately we’ve had a number of wakeup calls in the last couple of decades, and we’re maybe hitting the snooze button and not responding when we ought to.”