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Childhood exposure to air pollution linked to high blood pressure

Exposure to air pollution during childhood increases the risk of high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. The report is based on the results of 14 air pollution studies from around the world.

Study lead study author Dr. Yao Lu is an expert in the Clinical Research Center at the Third Xiangya Hospital at Central South University in Changsha, China, and a professor in the Department of Life Science and Medicine at King’s College London. 

“Our analysis is the first to closely examine previous research to assess both the quality and magnitude of the associations between air pollution and blood pressure values among children and adolescents,” explained Dr. Lu.

“The findings provide evidence of a positive association between short- and long-term exposure to certain environmental air pollutants and blood pressure in children and adolescents.”

While it has been established that high blood pressure during childhood is a risk factor for hypertension and heart disease later in life, studies on air pollution and blood pressure in adolescents have produced inconsistent conclusions. The current analysis included data for more than 350,000 children.

The research – which included health outcomes of people in the United States, China, and Europe – looked at both long-term and short-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, measured as PM2.5 and PM10.

According to the results, long-term exposure to PM2.5, PM10, and nitrogen dioxide were all associated with elevated systolic blood pressure levels in children. Short-term exposure to PM10 was also significantly associated with higher systolic numbers among young people. 

Furthermore, higher diastolic blood pressure levels were associated with long-term exposure to PM2.5 and PM10.

“To reduce the impact of environmental pollution on blood pressure in children and adolescents, efforts should be made to reduce their exposure to environmental pollutants,” said Dr. Lu. 

“Additionally, it is also very important to routinely measure blood pressure in children and adolescents, which can help us identify individuals with elevated blood pressure early.”

The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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