Soil pollution increases risk of heart disease: study

A new study has linked pesticides to an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. While workers in the agricultural and chemical industries are most at risk, the general public can ingest pesticides from contaminated food, soil and water.


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Pesticides and heavy metals in soil can have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, a new study published in “Cardiovascular Research” has found. Air, water and soil pollution is responsible for at least nine million deaths each year and more than 60% of Pollution-illness and death related to the disease are due to cardiovascular diseases such as chronic ischemic heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias).

“Soil contamination is a less visible hazard to human health than polluted air,” said the author, Professor Thomas Munzel of the University Medical Center Mainz, Germany. “But evidence is mounting that pollutants in soil can harm cardiovascular health through a number of mechanisms, including inflammation and disruption of the body’s natural clock.”

In the paper, the team states that contaminated soil can lead to cardiovascular disease by increasing oxidative stress in blood vessels (with more “bad” free radicals and fewer “good” antioxidants), causing inflammation and by disrupting the biological clock (circadian rhythm). Dirty soil can enter the body by inhaling desert dust, fertilizer crystals, or plastic particles. Heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, plastics and organic toxins (eg in pesticides) can also be consumed orally. Floor pollutants wash in rivers and create dirty water that can be consumed.

Pesticides have been linked to a high risk of cardiovascular disease. While workers in the agricultural and chemical industries are most at risk, the general public can ingest pesticides from contaminated food, soil and water. Cadmium is a heavy metal found naturally in small amounts in air, water, soil and food, and also comes from industrial and agricultural sources. Food is the main source of cadmium in non-smokers.

Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal that contaminates the environment through mining, smelting, manufacturing and recycling. Exposure to arsenic, a natural metalloid, is linked to a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Arsenic levels can increase due to industrial processes and the use of contaminated water to irrigate crops.

The potential hazards of airborne contaminated dust are also noted in the study. Desert dust can travel long distances, and research has shown that soil particles in China and Mongolia are linked to an increased risk of heart attacks in Japan. Although there are no population-based studies of the cardiovascular health effects of nano- and microplastics in humans, research has shown that these particles can reach the bloodstream, making it plausible that they can travel to organs and cause systemic inflammation and cardiometabolic disease, the team said.

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