PM2.5 air pollution linked to increased risk of cardiac arrest: University of Sydney

A new study has found there is an increased risk of cardiac arrest from short-term exposure to air pollution. Picture: Karleen Minney
A new study has found there is an increased risk of cardiac arrest from short-term exposure to air pollution. Picture: Karleen Minney

Canberra's recent hazardous air quality could have serious health consequences as new research has found an increased risk of cardiac arrests from short-term exposure to air pollution.

Bushfires and petroleum-based motor vehicles have been highlighted as leading polluters in the study, led by the University of Sydney.

The study, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, examined PM2.5 air quality data from Japan against almost 250,000 cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

It found the risk of cardiac arrest grew by up to 4 per cent for every increase of 10 units in the PM2.5 levels.

People over 65 were particularly susceptible to cardiac events as a result of air pollution.

"Our study supports recent evidence that there is no safe level of air pollution - finding an increased risk of cardiac arrest despite air quality generally meeting the standards," report author Professor Kazuaki Negishi said.

"Given the fact that there is a tendency towards worsening air pollution - from increasing numbers of cars as well as disasters such as bushfires - the impacts on cardiovascular events, in addition to respiratory diseases and lung cancer - must be taken into account in health care responses."

Australian National University cardiologist Dr Arnagretta Hunter said recent events would put the relationship between cardiovascular health and air quality into focus.

"Air pollution is a factor for cardiac events and has been forever," she said.

"We probably haven't given as much attention to air pollution as we should have; it has significant impacts on health.

"We have known PM2.5 is a risk factor for cardiovascular events for quite some time. It's one of the reasons we measure it."

Dr Hunter said the main health risk of the PM2.5 pollution was that it was absorbed into the bloodstream.

She said not only did this impact cardiovascular health but it could cause an increased risk of strokes and infections.

Experts have previously said it could be decades before the full health impact of smoke haze is known.

Health Minister Greg Hunt also planned to commission new research to understand the long-term health effects of bushfire smoke.

Since the North Black Range fire, west of Braidwood, broke out on November 28 there have been 44 days where air quality stations in Canberra recorded a rating above hazardous.

This spiked on New Year's Eve where it peaked in Monash at 5185 - more than 25 times above hazardous levels.

Before then, there had only been four days when air quality stations in the ACT recorded a rating above a hazardous level from 2013 to 2019.

This story New study outlines health risks of even short exposure to PM2.5 air pollution first appeared on The Canberra Times.