According to a review of no less than 17 studies, both short and long-term air pollution from vehicle exhausts or coal burning is found to be associated with high blood pressure.
The researchers who analysed all 17 studies of pollution and hypertension found that short term exposure to sulfur dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels were associated with high blood pressure risk.
They were also able to find the same association with long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide, which is omitted from both power plants and vehicle exhausts.
Speaking to Reuters Health, Tao Liu, senior author of the study said that:
There is a linear relationship between air pollution and hypertension, which indicated that even a very low level of air pollution might induce hypertension risk
“Therefore, everyone should be concerned about the effects of air pollution on their blood pressure even if there is a very low air pollution level in their living environment.”
He added that it was “impossible” to remove all air pollutants from the environments.
The data pooled from the studies amounted to the involvement of 330,000 people, with more than 108,000 hypertension patients and 220,000 healthy controls.
High blood pressure was defined as systolic blood pressure more than 140 mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure over 90 mm Hg or by anti-hypertensive drug use.
Air pollution was then assessed by averaging the data from the nearest monitoring stations.
Liu said that more studies were needed to understand the relationship between air pollution and blood pressure and that, “without a clear mechanism we cannot conclude that pollution ‘causes’ hypertension.”
He continued, saying that, “we should recall (going back to 1954) that epidemiological evaluations provided strong statistical support in linking cigarette smoke and cancer.”
In the UK air pollution causes up to 50,000 early deaths every single year and MPs have called for more action to tackle the issue.
This includes giving cities with illegal levels of air pollution the power to demand charges from some of the most polluting road vehicles.
Earlier in the week it was announced that European cities are set to benefit from greater involvement with EU legislation in regards to air pollution thanks to a new pact known as the Pact of Amsterdam.
New London mayor, Sadiq Khan, is also set to consult with residents in the coming weeks over a number of measures aimed at cutting air pollution in the capital.