Imperial scientists are taking volunteers to Oxford Street to investigate how air pollution affects the blood vessels and the lungs.
Participants in the study, including healthy volunteers and patients with heart or lung disease, spend two hours walking along one of London’s busiest roads while a researcher monitors pollution levels with a portable kit. On another day, they repeat the tests in Hyde Park as a comparison.
The researchers want to find out whether exposure to airborne particles, particularly those in diesel exhaust, are impairing the function of the lungs and circulation in these patients.
Coronary heart disease affects around 2.7 million people in the UK and another three million are thought to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Some studies have suggested that exposure to diesel pollution can make arteries become stiffer and impair lung function in these patients, but this hasn’t been tested outside of the laboratory.
“If we find that air pollution has a harmful effect on people with these conditions, we would be inclined to advise our patients with COPD and heart disease to avoid areas with high air pollution,” said Dr Rudy Sinharay, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial, who is conducting the study. “The London Assembly might also consider whether the findings would inform strategies to further control air pollution and emissions to reduce the risks that may be associated with chronic disease.”
The study is funded by the British Heart Foundation and led by Professors Fan Chung, Paul Cullinan, and Peter Collins at Imperial, in collaboration with Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and the Environmental Research Group at King’s College London.
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Martin Sayers [Digital Media Producer]
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