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Environmental Contributors to Cardiovascular Disease: Emerging Research on Heavy Metals and Air Pollution

September 25, 2018 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death worldwide, causes over 15 million deaths each year. Deaths from CVD have declined in the US over the past 50 years, whereas global mortality rates have risen. Cardiovascular disease is usually attributed to tobacco use, hypertension, diabetes, dietary factors, and lack of physical activity, but toxic chemicals and pollutants are major contributors to CVD mortality.

Lead, a ubiquitous and toxic metal, is causally associated with hypertension and coronary heart disease. Until recently, the number of deaths in the U.S. attributable to lead exposure had not been estimated using a nationally representative cohort. It was also unclear if concentrations of lead in blood below the current action level for adults (5 µg/dL or 50 ppb) were associated with deaths from cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease. Dr. Bruce Lanphear, Clinician Scientist at the BC Children’s Research Institute and a Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, will summarize the results of a new study on the number of deaths attributable to lead exposure in the US. He will also describe the potential contribution of the reduction in lead exposure to the decline in coronary artery disease over the past 50 years.

Exposure to arsenic and other metals is a major global health problem. Consistent evidence supports that arsenic is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease above 10 µg/L, the current drinking water standard in the US and many other countries. Below 10 µg/L in water, the evidence is increasing although the dose-response relationship is unknown. Dr. Ana Navas-Acien, a physician-epidemiologist and a Professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, will present and discuss experimental and epidemiologic evidence assessing the dose-response between arsenic and multiple health endpoints including data from the Strong Heart Study, a prospective cohort study of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors in American Indian communities and the HEALS cohort in Bangladesh. Potential interventions to prevent and mitigate the cardiotoxic effects of metals will also be presented.

Particulate air pollution is ubiquitous in modern environments. The composition of air pollution varies from one location to another; however, fine and course particulate matter (PM) and gaseous copollutants such as ozone, nitrogen oxides, and sulfates in particular, have been associated with adverse health effects. Although exposure to PM and associated copollutants has been linked to multiple health outcomes, more than 80% of pre-mature mortality associated with exposure to PM could be attributed to heart disease. Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar, a Smith and Lucille Gibson Professor of Medicine at the University of Louisville, will present current evidence relating to the effects of air pollution on heart disease and discuss the mechanisms underlying the heightened vulnerability of cardiovascular tissues to air pollution exposure.


September 25, 2018
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
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Collaborative on Health and the Environment