Every Breath Counts in the Fight Against Heart Disease

HEPA air filters shown to lower risk of cardiovascular disease in study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Exposure to air pollution has been shown to contribute to cardiovascular disease risk, but use of high efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters might lower that risk, according to new research.

HEPA filters were shown to reduce the amount of airborne particulate matter that contributes to cardiovascular disease, resulting in improved blood vessel health and reduced markers found in blood that are linked to increased risk.

Ryan Allen, PhD, assistant professor, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, said researchers were interested in learning more about factors related to heart disease in air pollution, including the effects of residential fireplace smoke on the endothelium (the cells that line blood vessels) and on inflammation in the system, both of which are associated with cardiovascular disease risk.

Heart disease risk from air pollution has been well researched, especially in urban areas, but studies have focused primarily on the effects of carbon emissions.

For this research, scientists from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, assembled 45 adults from 25 non-tobacco smoking households. The homes were monitored for two consecutive weeks (14 days total). HEPA filters were operated in participant's bedrooms and living rooms. The filters operated normally during one week and without the internal filters in place during the other period. Participants did not know which week the filter was in place or was not in place. A total of 13 homes used woodstoves, it should be noted.

Blood and urine samples were collected from each participant from which markers for cellular damage was measured. Endothelial function were also evaluated, and air samples were collected and analyzed.

Researchers found the filters reduced average concentrations of fine particulates inside homes by 60 percent and wood smoke by some 75 percent. The filter's use was linked to marked improvements in endothelial function and decreased inflammation.

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Review Date: 
January 23, 2011
Last Updated:
January 26, 2011