New study find air pollution is harmful in summer too

Nov 9, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 7:37 am

FILE: Air pollution over Utah. (Photo: Jeffrey D Allred, Deseret News)

(Photo: Jeffrey D Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — An Intermountain Healthcare study released Wednesday found air pollution in the summer might be worse for our health than we thought.

The study links increased heart problems to seasonal air pollution. It adds to a previously known link between air pollution and people seeking same-day treatment for life-threatening heart conditions. The new information differentiates between heart attacks and unstable chest pain.

According to the study, unstable chest pain is something people experience when they are doing little or no physical activity.

The study’s lead author Dr. Benjamin Horne said they found more instances of unstable chest pain patients during the summer season. (The study also found there are more heart attacks, which are hospital-level pain, in the winter.)

That’s because wildfires don’t cause fine particulate matter to rise much in the summer. According to the study, particulate matter in wildfire smoke is different from the particulate matter from cars and businesses. The difference in particulate matter is likely the reason for the different outcomes.

Dr. Horne said behavior in each season likely contributes.

“In the wintertime, most people are sitting inside anyway. It’s cold it’s snowing, where in the summer, everyone expects to be outside,” he said. “So they might be ignoring the air pollution because they’ve planned something.”

Experts hope this study will remind all groups, especially those at risk of heart issues, to avoid long outdoor exposure during high air pollution days.

Researchers will share the study’s findings at this year’s American Heart Association conference.

Kristine Weller contributed to this story.

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New study find air pollution is harmful in summer too