Dirty air causes more heart attacks than cocaine

Using data from 36 studies, scientists calculated the percentage of heart attacks attributed to each identified trigger. Taking into account odds and prevalence of exposure, guess what sparked 7.4% of heart attacks studied– traffic exposure. 

Researchers out of the University of Belgium have found that air pollution triggers more heart attacks than cocaine. Though cocaine users individually are 23 times more likely to have a heart attack, the study found cocaine was the trigger in .9% of the cases studied.

“Of the triggers for heart attack studied, cocaine is the most likely to trigger an event in an individual, but traffic has the greatest population effect as more people are exposed to (it),” researchers said.

Attention grabbing headlines aside, this finding should do a lot to bring attention to the very real dangers of poor air quality.  Pollution from car exhaust has been linked to cancer, asthma, and premature birth.  Even more alarming is that bad air doesn’t just stick around the freeways, one study showed pollutants drifting 1.5 miles downwind. Juxtaposing traffic exposure and hard drugs makes it clear even if our air isn’t— congestion on our roadways can kill.

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