Environmental Cardiology: Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Bob Weinhold

Environ Health Perspect. 2004;112(15) 

In This Article

Riding the Learning Curve

The venues for professionals interested in learning more about the links between environmental agents and CVD are expanding. One journal that focuses extensively on related issues of cardiovascular toxicities of drugs, novel therapies, and environmental pollutants is Cardiovascular Toxicology, which began publishing in 2001. Among the general journals that have published related studies are EHP, JAMA, the New England Journal of Medicine, Circulation, Inhalation Toxicology, Toxicologic Sciences, Epidemiology, and the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The 2004 reference book Netter's Cardiology has a chapter on the topic, authored by Cascio, and the issue is increasingly appearing on the agenda of conferences run by organizations such as the AHA, the American Thoracic Society, the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology, the NIEHS, and the EPA. Discussions on the latest developments routinely occur on the NIH e-mail group EnviroHeart (http://list.nih.gov/archives/enviroheart.html).

Interested doctors may soon be able to learn more through continuing medical education programs. The EPA is working on a certification program to educate doctors about ozone and respiratory effects, says agency environmental health scientist Susan Stone, and the agency anticipates following that up with a program on particulates that will cover cardiovascular effects.

At the moment, though, doctors have no accepted medical treatments that are known to be effective in reducing the effects of chemicals on CVD, says Robert D. Brook, who is lead author of the AHA Scientific Statement, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan, and a practicing physician. Instead, concerned people should avoid exposures to the extent possible, he says.

One tool to help people avoid air pollution exposures is the EPA's AIRNow website (http://www.epa.gov/airnow/), Stone says. Daily reports on local particulate and ozone levels can help people decide whether to limit activity and thus, exposure. That idea will be incorporated into a Weather Channel feature called "Air Aware" that the EPA is collaborating on, which is scheduled for launch in mid-autumn 2004.

The EPA also is finalizing an educational poster designed to be hung in doctors' offices and elsewhere, which is expected to be released in November 2004. It devotes about half its space to the effects of a few common pollutants on the cardiovascular system. The other half addresses respiratory effects. In 2003 the agency released an educational brochure on particulates that folded in some information on cardiovascular effects. The brochure has been distributed by some state and local air agencies, and is available to the public through the EPA's National Center for Environmental Publications.

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