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Ambient air pollution and thrombosis

Publication date: 

3 Jan 2018




Robertson, S. & Miller, M.R.

Publication type: 



Air pollution is a growing public health concern of global significance. Acute and chronic exposure is known to impair cardiovascular function, exacerbate disease and increase cardiovascular mortality. Several plausible biological mechanisms have been proposed for these associations, however, at present, the pathways are incomplete. A seminal review by the American Heart Association (2010) concluded that the thrombotic effects of particulate air pollution likely contributed to their effects on cardiovascular mortality and morbidity. The aim of the current review is to appraise the newly accumulated scientific evidence (2009–2016) on contribution of haemostasis and thrombosis towards cardiovascular disease induced by exposure to both particulate and gaseous pollutants. Seventy four publications were reviewed in-depth. The weight of evidence suggests that acute exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) induces a shift in the haemostatic balance towards a pro-thrombotic/pro-coagulative state. Insufficient data was available to ascertain if a similar relationship exists for gaseous pollutants, and very few studies have addressed long-term exposure to ambient air pollution. Platelet activation, oxidative stress, interplay between interleukin-6 and tissue factor, all appear to be potentially important mechanisms in pollution-mediated thrombosis, together with an emerging role for circulating microvesicles and epigenetic changes. Overall, the recent literature supports, and arguably strengthens, the contention that air pollution contributes to cardiovascular morbidity by promoting haemostasis. The volume and diversity of the evidence highlights the complexity of the pathophysiologic mechanisms by which air pollution promotes thrombosis; multiple pathways are plausible and it is most likely they act in concert. Future research should address the role gaseous pollutants play in the cardiovascular effects of air pollution mixture and direct comparison of potentially susceptible groups to healthy individuals.