Air pollution and smog have health consequences for affected populations ranging from respiratory problems to death. Fine particulate matter especially has become the focus in recent years, because it increases the probability of dying from respiratory or cardiovascular disease. In addition, the risk of stroke is increased, as shown by Barbara Hoffmann and her coauthors in a recent study in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2015; 112: 195-201). In a population of the German Ruhr region, she investigated how often stroke and cardiovascular disease occurred, as well as how much particulate matter and noise inhabitants were exposed to.
More than 4400 residents of Bochum, Essen, and Mülheim an der Ruhr participated in the study. Participants were selected over the time period from 2000 to 2003, and were aged between 45 and 74 years. Information regarding stroke or cardiovascular disease occurrence and/or associated mortality was collected annually. In addition, the authors evaluated exposure to particulate matter and noise according to participants' place of residence. The results indicate that stroke is more likely to occur with increased air pollution. The results for coronary events are less clear, and exposure to noise pollution showed no clear effect. The authors point out, however, that the data indicates a tendency for increased risk of cardiovascular disease through particulate matter exposure.