26 August 2014

Black carbon exposure linked to high blood pressure

Exposure to pollution from cooking stoves and highways may increase high blood pressure risk in women.


Women in China who are exposed to pollution from cooking stoves and highways face a greater risk of high blood pressure, according to a new study.

The study focused on the role of black carbon, which after carbon dioxide is the second leading human-caused emission driving climate change. It comes from burning wood, coal and fossil fuels.

About half of all Chinese households cook with coal and wood, the researchers said.

The study involved 280 women living in a rural area of north-western Yunnan province, with an average age of 52. Eighteen percent were overweight and four percent were obese at the start of the survey.

Read: Overweight kids risk high blood pressure

"The women wore portable air samplers that collected air particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 micrometers, a size commonly associated with adverse health effects, and the samples were analysed for black carbon content," said the study.

Black carbon exposure was linked to higher blood pressure, a leading risk factor for heart disease.

Co-exposure to motor vehicle emissions

Furthermore, living within about 200 meters of a highway was associated with a threefold higher systolic blood pressure – the greater of the two numbers that measure blood pressure – than women who lived further from a highway.

Read: Car pollution can damage brain

"We found an indication that the cardiovascular effect of black carbon from biomass smoke may be stronger if there is co-exposure to motor vehicle emissions," said the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Reducing such exposure "should lead to a reduction in the adverse health and climate impacts of air pollution."

Previous studies in Latin America have shown that when older women switched from traditional open fire cooking stoves to less-polluting chimney stoves, their blood pressure decreased.

Read more:
Is high blood pressure bad?
New way to tackle high blood pressure

Image: Severe air pollution in Beijing, China from Shutterstock

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Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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