Press Release

Disclosures: Achenbach, Brauer and Kovacs report no relevant financial disclosures.
January 30, 2021
2 min read

Heart societies issue call to action to reduce air pollution, harmful exposure


Press Release

Disclosures: Achenbach, Brauer and Kovacs report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Four cardiology societies have published a statement calling for structural actions to reduce emissions of air pollutants and reduce exposure to improve CV health.

The statement from the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, the European Society of Cardiology and the World Heart Federation, which highlighted the role health care providers can play in preventing disease associated with air pollution, was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Circulation, the European Heart Journal and Global Heart.

Air pollution in China
Source: Adobe Stock
Richard Kovacs

“Clinicians have a responsibility to educate their patients, their colleagues and their communities at large on the connection between air pollution and cardiovascular disease risk,” Richard Kovacs, MD, MACC, the Q. E. and Sally Russell professor of cardiology at Indiana University School of Medicine, immediate past president of the ACC and senior author of the joint statement, said in a press release. “By advocating for recognition of air pollution as a health factor, working individually with our patients to reduce exposure and associated risks, and integrating air pollution into broader disease management approaches, the health care community can provide support for larger pollution mitigation efforts.”

According to the release, air pollution is a key risk factor for CVD; is a major contributor to the global burden of disease; and has been linked to an increased risk for death from COVID-19, representing a “triple threat” that should be taken seriously.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, air pollution was an issue of growing concern due to its impact on people’s health, although it was frequently overlooked as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. COVID-19 has brought a new, deadly factor to the equation, and the time has come for the health community to speak up and take action,” Michael Brauer, PhD, professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, affiliate professor in the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and chair of the World Heart Federation Air Pollution Expert Group, said in the release.

Calls to action included:

  • advocating for air pollution mitigation as a health measure, further research on air quality and its impact on CVD, and interventions to reduce air pollution and its effect on noncommunicable diseases;
  • participating in the development of guidelines on air pollution and CVD;
  • supporting ministries of environment, energy, and transportation in their mitigation efforts; and
  • collaborating with senior decision makers in national, regional, and global governmental institutions to make air pollution-related heart disease a priority.

“Air pollution is one of the most underestimated causes of heart disease and stroke,” Stephan Achenbach, MD, FESC, FACC, FSCCT, chairman of cardiology and professor of medicine at the University of Erlangen, Germany, and president of the ESC, said in the release. “More research is urgently required to identify susceptible populations and to determine the optimal methods of improving air quality to benefit cardiovascular health. Air pollution needs to be recognized as a major modifiable risk factor in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease, and measures to reduce its detrimental short-term and long-term influence on cardiovascular health, potentially over generations, are urgently required.”