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Clean air in house reduces cardiovascular disease

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Scientists from Canada say that high efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by cutting the air pollution.

The findings will appear in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

A HEPA filter (theoretically) can remove from the air at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and any particles with a size of 0.3 micrometers or larger.

In this study, 45 adults from 25 homes were recruited and asked to document their activities, locations and proximity to pollution sources every hour during two consecutive seven-day periods.

The order of filtration or non-filtration was random and participants did not know when the air was being filtered.

Researchers collected each participant’s blood and urine samples and measured their response to markers of cellular injury at the end of each 7-day period, and endothelial function also was evaluated and air samples were collected to analyze. 

Specifically, researchers measured reactive hyperemia and C-reactive protein.  A decreased reactive hyperemia index suggests blood vessels have an impaired response to changes in blood flow, and is an indicator of the earliest stages of atherosclerosis.  C-reactive protein will increase during inflammation.

The results showed reactive hyperemia index increase 9.4 percent, which means endothelial function was improved, and C-reactive protein dropped 32.6%, indicating reduction of inflammation.

"Our results support the hypothesis that systemic inflammation and impaired endothelial function, both predictors of cardiovascular morbidity, can be favorably influenced by a reduction of particle concentration and add to a growing body of evidence linking short-term exposure to particulate matter with a systemic inflammatory response," said Dr. Allen, assistant professor at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia.

"Reducing air pollution appears to provide health benefits even if the pollution levels are already relatively low."

Previous studies have showed that pollution causes inflammation in the lungs and vessels and may also cause endothelial cells to function poorly, ultimately leading to cardiovascular disease.

"HEPA filters are a potentially useful intervention since they are relatively inexpensive to purchase and operate and can effectively remove tiny particles that can be inhaled, to improve air quality inside homes where the majority of time is spent," Dr. Allen said.

Stephen Lau and editing by Denise Reynolds

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