Moderate air pollution can heighten risk of ischemic stroke

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 27, 2012

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Air pollution, even at levels generally considered safe by federal regulations, increases people's risk of ischemic stroke, says a study in the Feb. 13 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study found that people's ischemic stroke risk was 34% higher on days when ambient fine particulate matter air pollution levels were moderate compared with days when the levels were considered good by the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index. The increase in stroke risk was greatest within 12 to 14 hours of exposure to air pollution and was most strongly associated with pollution from vehicle traffic, the study said (link).

Researchers reviewed medical records of 1,705 patients 21 and older who were hospitalized at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston between April 1, 1999, and Oct. 31, 2008, with neurologist-confirmed ischemic stroke. They also monitored air pollution during the study period, focusing on particles with a diameter of 2.5 millionths of a meter. Such particles commonly come from factories, power plants, and trucks and automobiles, the study authors said.

The EPA considers "moderate" air quality levels to be acceptable with the potential of moderate health concern for a small number of people.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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