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Experts sound the alarm over everyday threat more dangerous than drugs or alcohol: 'We still have a huge gap in our understanding'

"Our bodies are being bombarded with pollutants from every angle."

"Our bodies are being bombarded with pollutants from every angle."

Photo Credit: iStock

The results are in: Pollution is a major cause of cardiovascular disease. Health news service Medical Xpress, upon reviewing recent research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, said the level of pollution is now "a greater health threat than that of war, terrorism, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, drugs, and alcohol combined."

 What's happening?

Researchers from around the globe honed in on how all types of environmental pollutants — including air pollution caused by burning oil, gas, and coal for fuel, wildfire smoke, toxic chemicals, and even the "lesser-known … soil, noise, and light pollution" — affect human health outcomes, Medical Xpress explained. 

What the scientists found was troubling. 

"Our bodies are being bombarded with pollutants from every angle and they are taking a toll on our heart health," said Jason Kovacic, director and CEO of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Australia, per Medical Xpress

After presenting the data, experts underscored the urgency of the threat and focused on the future. They even noted that, someday, people may be tested for individual toxic pollution levels similar to how children in the U.S. are tested for lead poisoning

"We still have a huge gap in our understanding of the link between pollutants and heart disease," said Kovacic in the Medical Xpress report. "There are hundreds of thousands of chemicals that haven't even been tested for their safety or toxicity, let alone their impact on our health." 

Why are these findings important?

Pollution exposure is related to a whole host of medical problems, from mild to life-threatening: dehydration, weight gain, inflammation, high blood pressure, dementia, acute kidney failure, and heart and other organ damage, to name a few. 

As if the statistics weren't already grim enough, "the evidence suggests that the number of people dying prematurely because of these very different forms of pollution is far higher than currently recognized," Kovacic said. 

Whether you work out, go to the doctor, or avoid drugs, tobacco, or excessive alcohol use, it's likely you have made at least one decision to take action toward improving your health. It's important that air pollution is recognized as the high-alert harmful danger that it is — and that we work to seek and sustain solutions. 

What's being done about it?

The researchers suggested a few potential measures to tackle the air pollution problem, including shifts in transportation, urban design, business investments, and community education. 

Give it a try today: walk or bike instead of driving, switch to cleaner products, or just make the effort to learn more about climate issues and how they affect your health.

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