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BYU study links air pollution to blood vessel damage

SALT LAKE CITY — A study that included BYU students exposed to air pollution during Utah's notorious wintertime temperature inversions shows clear health risks from damage to blood vessels.

The study by BYU's Arden Pope and researchers at the University of Louisville in Kentucky was published Tuesday in Circulation Research, a journal of the American Heart Association.

"For quite a few years, we’ve been trying to understand how breathing air pollution into your lungs can cause a cascade of cardiovascular effects,” Pope said. “These results substantially expand our understanding.”

Pope, who has studied local health impacts of air pollution for over three decades, led research that scheduled blood draws from young, healthy people to examine potential adverse consequences of breathing air during inversions.

Among the study's findings:

• Microparticles indicating cell injury and death significantly increased.

• Levels of proteins that inhibit blood-vessel growth increased.

• Proteins that signify blood-vessel inflammation also showed significant increases.

Pope's research over the years has produced study findings that correlate cardiovascular health with exposure to air pollution.

In 2013, he was one of hundreds of researchers around the globe that participated in an expansive study that found air quality regulations over 30 years had produced a 35 percent decline in death and disabilities in the United States.

Pope was among researchers involved in a study published in 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined fine particulate exposure and life expectancy in 51 U.S. metropolitan areas.

In the late ’80s, his research conducted during a Geneva Steel labor strike proved groundbreaking, determining that hospital admissions for pediatric respiratory ailments dropped during the 13 months the plant was idled.


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