Air Pollution Can Put Children At Higher Risk of Hypertension: Study

Children who are exposed to air pollution face an increased risk of suffering high blood pressure, according to the findings of a new study, which raises serious long-term health concerns for families living in cities with high levels of pollution.

In findings published last week in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old have elevated blood pressure after experiencing short and long-term exposure to fine and coarse particulate matter air pollution.

Chinese researchers conducted a meta-analysis to assess the relationship between short-term and long-term ambient air pollution exposure and blood pressure problems among adolescents. The study divided children into groups by composition of air pollutants, including nitric oxide (NO2), particulate matter PM 10 and PM 2.5 and the length of exposure.

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Researchers analyzed more than 36,000 studies, and finally included data from 14 studies that involved more than 350,000 children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old.

The data suggests air pollution can have a serious impact on the health of the hearts of children as young as five years old, according to the findings.

Children experienced increases in blood pressure if they had short-term exposure to coarse particulate matter (PM 10), long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), or long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide.

Short term exposure to PM 10 was significantly associated with elevated systolic blood pressure. Long-term exposure to PM 2.5, PM 10 and nitric oxide were also associated with increases in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.

Systolic blood pressure is the pressure inside the arteries when the heart squeezes blood out. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure inside the arteries between heart beats.

PM 2.5 and PM 10 are particles of air pollution containing tiny particles of dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and drops of liquid. PM 10 includes particles smaller than 10 micrometers and PM 2.5 includes particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers, which is smaller than the diameter of a single human hair. Nitrogen dioxide is an air pollution that is emitted from traffic exhaust.

Researchers were unable determine how much air pollution exposure was necessary for a child to develop high blood pressure, but if the increases are occurring as young as five years old, it does not take many years for the side effects to occur. One theory is air pollution may put increased stress on children’s bodies, which may lead to other side effects. However, more research is needed to determine the exact link. Smog could also be impacting the health of blood vessels by making them less flexible.

Children who suffer from high blood pressure are more likely to face an increased risk of hypertension into adulthood. Increased risk of high blood pressure also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke later in life.

The findings of this latest study appear to support data from a study released earlier this year, which found childhood exposure to air pollution increases a child’s risk of suffering from heart disease and other ailments later in adulthood.

The researchers recommend precautions be taken to help protect children, including outfitting schools with better air filtration. If parents can choose to raise children outside of cities with high levels of air pollution it can also reduce the risk, they said.

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