Air purifiers may protect your heart against pollution

Protect yourself against air pollution – it can affect your heart.
Protect yourself against air pollution – it can affect your heart.

Many of us live and work in an urban environment. And if the stress caused by traffic and high noise levels weren't enough, increased levels of heart disease are also linked to city-living and pollution.

But there is a way to address this problem – and now a small study from China has found that air purifiers may protect the heart against pollution.

The study

The study included 55 healthy college students who used real or fake air purifiers in their dormitory rooms. Researchers measured the students' indoor and outdoor exposure to fine particulate matter, a component of air pollution emitted from vehicles, factories, power plants, fires and smoking.

Exposure to high particulate levels increased students' stress hormones and triggered metabolic changes that may increase heart disease risk, the researchers said.

A significant reduction

Using air purifiers reduced indoor levels of fine particulate matter by an average of 82% and led to short-term declines in stress hormone levels. After 24 hours of air purifier use, particulate levels were within the World Health Organisation's safe range, the study found.

The findings were published in the journal Circulation.

Several health benefits

"Although we found significant health benefits with air purifiers, the actual health protection people could get from air purifiers in real living conditions is still not well-determined," study author Dr Haidong Kan said in a journal news release. Kan is a professor of environmental health sciences at Fudan University in Shanghai.

He noted that this was a small study, and it's not clear whether the results would apply to other countries, because pollution levels in China are much higher than in places such as the United States, Europe or even South Africa.

"Future studies should examine whether the health benefits from short-term air purification can improve long-term health, and whether these findings are also found in people who live in low pollution areas," Kan said. 

A Health24 article mentions that air purifiers may also offer protection against asthma.

Pollution in South Africa

While China has extremely high levels of pollution, South Africa also has high levels of pollution in certain areas. According to a Health24 article, the WHO found that South Africa ranks 30th in the world for bad air quality, with Johannesburg ranked as the 99th most polluted city in the world.

A Mail and Guardian article reports that air pollution kills 20 000 people in South Africa every year, costing the economy nearly R300 million. This is according to new research from the World Bank.

Areas with the worst air pollution in South Africa are the Highveld, the Vaal Triangle and Waterberg.

Image supplied by iStock.

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