Air pollution in Britain's cities could be as toxic to the heart as an oil slick, scientists have warned.
Research shows that chemicals responsible for seriously damaging the hearts of fish caught up in the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster could also doing untold harm to human cardiac health.
It is feared the compounds, which are found in petrol, coal and diesel fumes, are causing irregular heartbeats - a potentially life-threatening condition that can raise the risk of stroke. US government scientist John Incardona (CORR) warned the chemicals were "ubiquitous in urban air. In essence, people in big cities are breathing in an aerosolised oil spill", he said.
The warning centres around polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, compounds which are abundant in crude oil and found in high levels in polluted city air. Although some larger PAHs have long been linked to cancer, smaller types had been largely thought to be harmless.
Now, research shows they may be toxic to the heart.
The link was first made after the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, when salmon and herring embryos caught up in the slick were found to develop heart defects. To pin down the effects of PAHs, Dr Incardona, a developmental biologist, turned to the zebrafish, a tiny tropical fish with a surprisingly human-like heart. Studies on zebrafish embryos showed smaller PAHs had dramatic effects on the developing heart, causing swelling and irregular heartbeats or arrhythmia.
Source - Daily Mail