Air pollution in London boosts risk of heart attack

Tue, January 29, 2008






Short-term exposure to air pollution is killing 6,000 Canadians a year, and London is in one of the worst areas of the country, according to a report released yesterday by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

The report also found few people are aware fine particle pollution can increase the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke. For individuals, such as smokers, it can increase the risk 94 per cent.

And even a short surge in fine particle pollution — 24 hours — can increase the risk of heart attack by 69 per cent, the foundation said.

"Most people are aware of smog advisories, but they don’t act on them," said Dr. Robert Hegele, a Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher and professor of medicine and biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario.

Elderly people and those who have had heart problems should stay inside on days when an air quality advisory has been issued, Hegele said.

Air quality across Canada has improved in the last few years.

However, there has been no significant change in fine particle pollution, produced by a wide variety of sources including cars, diesel trucks, factories, power plants, windblown dust, smoke from wood stoves and outdoor burning.

Ontario, Quebec and interior British Columbia are the worst areas for the pollution while Newfoundland and Labrador have the least.

In Ontario, the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton are identified as having the highest daily readings, creating an elevated heart attack risk.

But the London area’s air is close to the same poor quality, Hegele said.

The foundation report said people should be aware that the risk from the pollution is year-round, not just in the summer, and that rural areas aren’t exempt.

Wood stoves, pellet stoves and wood-burning fireplaces can be sources of dangerous air pollution and are responsible for 28 per cent of the fine particulate pollution in Canada, according to the report.


The Heart and Stroke Foundation called on governments to reduce air pollution and its impact on heart disease by :

– Extending the national Air Quality Health Index that has been piloted in Toronto, Nova Scotia and British Columbia to all parts of the country so all Canadians have information on air quality and when to limit exposure

– Providing incentive programs to encourage consumers and industry to reduce air pollution

– Increasing investments in public transit, including investing in high-speed rail access in the Quebec City to Windsor corridor

– Ensuring all wood-burning stoves and fireplaces conform to national particulate emission requirements


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