Prolonged Exposure to Black Carbon May Lead to Risk of Cardiac Fibrosis

Cardiac Fibrosis

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of São Paulo (USP) has established a direct correlation between prolonged exposure to air pollution and heightened cardiovascular risks among residents of the city. Moreover, individuals with hypertension face an even greater risk.

The study specifically identified a connection between cardiac fibrosis, a marker of heart disease, and the duration of exposure to black carbon particles.

Researchers analyzed the autopsies of 238 individuals and conducted interviews with the deceased’s relatives to gather data on risk factors such as smoking history and hypertension. Through macroscopic examination of lung tissue, they assessed the presence and quantity of black carbon, while samples were used to determine the extent of cardiac fibrosis.

The study revealed a notable correlation between the level of black carbon in the lungs and the presence of cardiac fibrosis among the subjects. This implies that prolonged exposure to pollution heightens the likelihood of fibrosis development.

Paulo Saldiva, a study author, pathologist, and professor at USP, remarked, “This data underscores the vital role of autopsies in investigating the impact of urban environments and personal habits on disease development.”

Furthermore, the risk was found to escalate for individuals with hypertension. Among them, the occurrence of cardiac fibrosis, indicating potential disease progression, rises with prolonged exposure to air pollution, regardless of smoking status. For individuals without hypertension, smokers were particularly at risk.

Between 2011 and 2021, Brazil witnessed a surge in mortality rates from hypertension, increasing from 11.8 to 18.7 deaths per 100,000 individuals. Approximately 60% of the elderly population in the country is affected by hypertension.

The researchers emphasize that hypertension often goes unnoticed, and pollution, while not always visible, can still be mitigated to some extent.

Saldiva elucidated, “There are two indicators of pollution: one measured by the CETESB* network, which is objective, and another related to individual exposure. In other words, the concentration of environmental pollution does not equate to the same dosage for everyone. Spending hours in a traffic corridor results in a higher dosage due to elevated environmental concentration.”

Saldiva elaborated that various factors, including hypertension itself, contribute to the development of cardiac fibrosis, with pollution now established as one of them. “The question was, ‘Does pollution manifest prominently in this scenario?’ It does, marking the first time in the world that this has been demonstrated in humans. That’s the distinctive aspect of this research.”

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