In addition to causing lung damage, air pollution is now also recognized as a threat to cardiovascular health. Reporting in the March 6, 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers examined long-term health data on 500,000 individuals to compare increases in air pollution levels with incidence of death. They discovered that when air pollution levels suddenly increased, in addition to expected increases in deaths from asthma, pneumonia, and emphysema, there was an unexpected increase in the number of deaths related to heart attacks and stroke. Most surprising was the finding that when air pollution levels rose, so did deaths from all causes, not just those related to the heart and lungs (Fig. 1).
One possible explanation for the increase in cardiovascular-related deaths is that air pollution causes oxidative stress that, in turn, triggers an inflammatory response in the lungs that leads to the release of chemicals that impair heart function and blood pressure.
This was shown to be the case when scientists working in the Netherlands exposed rats to high levels of particulate air pollution. Following exposure, the researchers found that plasma levels of fibrinogen were elevated by 20 percent, which could presumably increase blood viscosity, leading to decreased tissue blood flow. They also measured a 400 percent jump in tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, and a 350 percent increase in nitric oxide synthase (NOS) in lung fluids. The researchers speculated that as particulates lodge in lung tissues they induce an increase in the production of nitric oxide (NO). Under normal conditions nitric oxide is an important neurotransmitter that aids numerous signaling pathways involved in motor learning, protein modification, arterial dilation and immune defense. But when conditions trigger the overproduction of NO as seen in the Netherlands study, the result is serious damage to the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels of the lungs.
When Japanese researchers exposed guinea pigs to particulates from diesel exhaust, the lungs showed a significant elevation of leukotrienes and eosinophils, two important biomarkers of inflammation and cytotoxicity commonly observed in cases of chronic obstructive lung disease (COLD). The researchers noted that these findings indicate that chronic exposure to diesel exhaust induces continuous inflammation and overproduction of mucus and phospholipids in the lung.
Another mechanism implicated in air pollution-related heart failures involves bone marrow and atherosclerotic plaques. Researchers in Vancouver, British Columbia found that exposure to high levels of air pollution stimulates bone marrow to release leukocytes and platelets that accumulate preferentially in pulmonary capillaries. In addition to causing damage to lung tissues, the researchers also observed that inhalation of particulate pollution causes changes in atherosclerotic plaque lesions that make the deposits more vulnerable to rupture.
They postulated that exposure to particulate air pollution induces a systemic inflammatory response that includes the release of inflammatory mediators that stimulate bone marrow to release leukocytes and platelets, leading to lung inflammation and changes of atherosclerotic plaque, making them more vulnerable to rupture.
Negative Ion Air Purifiers.
As the scope of air pollution related health problems grows, so too does the number of people turning to air purifying solutions for protection. Home air filtration products offer a number of options, including electrostatic, UV radiation, water and advanced HEPA filtration technologies. Until recently, these products—many engineered for entire houses and buildings—were bulky and expensive to install and maintain, placing them out of reach for most people. Recently, a number of consumer products have become available utilizing ion-generating technology to eliminate airborne pollutants, allergens and viruses from immediate breathing spaces.
These devices work by generating a flow of negative ions that charge and bind together airborne particulate matter, which then clumps and precipitates out of the air. Ion generating devices have been shown to be effective against dust, cigarette smoke, pet dander, pollen, mold spores, viruses, and bacteria. In addition to eliminating harmful particulates from the air, negative ions also have a number of unique health benefits.
How Negative Ions Purify the Air ?
Most all particles in the air have a positive charge or are positively ionized, while negative ions have a negative charge. Negative ions are drawn to these positively charged particles by magnetic attraction to one another. When there is a high enough concentration of negative ions in the air, they will attract to floating particles in large numbers. This causes the particle to become too heavy to remain airborne. As a result, the particle will drop out of the air, keeping them out of the breathing zone and out of the respiratory system where it can trigger breathing and health problems.
Then the pollutant particles can be collected by normal cleaning activities, such as dusting or vacuuming. If the particle are forced back up into the air it will again be ionized and quickly settled out of the breathing zone once again.
In nature, negative ions are generated by processes such as sunlight, lightening, waves from the ocean, and from waterfalls. “Concrete Jungles” minimize the natural production of negative ions by disrupting the delicate electrical balance between the atmosphere and the earth. Most ionizers recreates them with electrode pins (“needlepoints”) to electrically produce negative ions. This method produces a density that is many times higher than the negative ion level found at Niagara Falls, the highest natural producer of negative ions and one of the healthiest environments in the world.