Melbourne: Air pollution from wildfires may increase risk of cardiac arrests, and other sudden acute heart problems, researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have found.
Researchers said that while breathing wildfire smoke was linked to respiratory problems such as asthma - evidence of an association between wildfire smoke exposure and heart problems has been inconsistent.
Lead author, Dr Anjali Haikerwal, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash University examined the association between exposure to tiny particulate pollutants found in wildfire smoke and the risk of heart-related incidents in the state of Victoria between December 2006 and January 2007.
During these two months, smoke reached cities far from the blazes and on most days the levels of fine particulate air pollutant exceeded recommended air quality limits.
The particles studied by researchers were smaller than 2.5 thousandths of a millimetre in diameter, which is significantly smaller than a speck of dust or 1/30th diameter of a human hair, and typically not visible to the human eye.
Researchers then used data from the Victorian Ambulance Cardiac Arrest Registry from Ambulance Victoria and data from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Researchers found that for an increase from the 25th to 75th percentile in particulate concentration over two days, after adjusting for temperature and humidity, there was a 6.98 per cent increase in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, with a stronger association between pollution and cardiac arrests in men and people 65 and older.
Researchers also found a 2.07 per cent increase in emergency department visits for acute cardiac events and 1.86 per cent increase in hospitalisations for acute cardiac events, with a stronger association in women and people 65 and older.
"These particles may act as a trigger factor for acute cardiovascular events, therefore its important to not delay seeking medical help if you experience symptoms of heart problems during smoke episodes from wildfires," Haikerwal said.
The new study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.