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Is there a link between soil pollution and heart disease?

by Pragati Singh
soil pollution

According to a review study published in Cardiovascular Research, a publication of the European Society of Cardiology, heart department, pesticides and heavy metals in soil may have negative effects on the cardiovascular system (ESC).

“Soil contamination is a less visible danger to human health than dirty air,” said author Professor Thomas Münzel of the University Medical Center Mainz, Germany. “But evidence is mounting that pollutants in soil may damage cardiovascular health through a number of mechanisms including inflammation and disrupting the body’s natural clock.”

Pollution of air, water and soil is responsible for at least nine million deaths each year. More than 60% of pollution-related disease and death is due to cardiovascular disease such as chronic ischaemic heart disease, heart attack, stroke and heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias).

This research examines the links between soil contamination and human health, with an emphasis on cardiovascular disease. Heavy metals, herbicides, and plastics are examples of soil contaminants. Contaminated soil, according to the scientists, may cause cardiovascular disease by raising oxidative stress in the blood vessels (with more “bad” free radicals and fewer “good” antioxidants), producing inflammation, and disrupting the biological clock (circadian rhythm).

Inhaling desert dust, fertiliser crystals, or plastic particles can all introduce dirt into the body. Heavy metals like cadmium and lead, plastics, and organic toxicants (found in pesticides, for example) may all be ingested orally. Soil contaminants pour into rivers, resulting in contaminated water that can be drank.

Pesticides are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. While individuals in the agricultural and chemical sectors are most vulnerable, the general population may be exposed to pesticides through contaminated food, soil, and water.

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Cadmium is a heavy metal that occurs naturally in trace levels in air, water, soil, and food, as well as in industrial and agricultural processes. Nonsmokers get most of their cadmium from food. According to the research, population studies on the association between cadmium and cardiovascular illness have had conflicting results, and it cites a Korean study that found middle-aged Koreans with high blood cadmium had an increased risk of stroke and hypertension.

Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal with environmental contamination through mining, smelting, manufacturing and recycling. Studies have found associations between high blood lead levels and cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke, in women and in people with diabetes. Further studies have indicated a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease associated with exposure to arsenic, a naturally occurring metalloid whose levels can increase due to industrial processes and using contaminated water to irrigate crops.

The paper states: “Although soil pollution with heavy metals and its association with cardiovascular diseases is especially a problem low- and middle-income countries since their populations are disproportionately exposed to these environmental pollutants, it becomes a problem for any country in the world due to the increasing globalisation of food supply chains and uptake of these heavy metals with fruits, vegetables and meat.”

The potential hazards of contaminated airborne dust are noted. Desert dust can travel long distances, and research has shown that particles from soil in China and Mongolia were related to an increased odds of heart attacks in Japan. The number of cardiovascular emergency department visits in Japan was 21% higher on days with heavy exposure to Asian dust.

While there are no population studies on 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 could travel to the organs and cause systemic inflammation and cardiometabolic disease.

Professor Münzel said: “More studies are needed on the combined effect of multiple soil pollutants on cardiovascular disease since we are rarely exposed to one toxic agent alone. Research is urgently required on how nano- and microplastic might initiate and exacerbate cardiovascular disease. Until we know more, it seems sensible to wear a face mask to limit exposure to windblown dust, filter water to remove contaminants, and buy food grown in healthy soil.”

Source: European Society of Cardiology
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