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Study: Soil pollution could cause heart disease

Researchers recommend buying food grown in healthy soil.

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By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

Soil pollution could cause heart disease, warns new research.

Unprotected farm fields yield topsoil as well as farm fertilizers and other potential pollutants when heavy rains occur. (Wikimedia Commons)

Any link is caused by pesticides and heavy metals left in the soil.

Researchers in Germany say pollutants in soil could be damaging our hearts by causing inflammation and disrupting our body clocks.

Soil pollution could also be causing heart disease by raising oxidative stress, which leads to more “bad” free radicals, which cause chain reactions in the body that damage other cells and fewer “good” antioxidants, which help stop that process.

The team say the risk is so great people should wear masks outside to avoid damaging their heart when soil is blown into the air by wind.

They say the problem is particularly acute in poorer and middle-income countries but is an issue everywhere because of integrated global supply chains.

Pollution of air, water and soil is responsible for at least nine million deaths each year. (Wikimedia Commons)

For the study, the team looked at existing studies about the topic to draw wider conclusions.

Existing research has linked pesticides to a higher risk of heart disease.

Studies have found links between high blood lead levels and heart disease- including coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke- among women and people with diabetes.

Other studies have suggested arsenic, which is used in industry and can appear in contaminated water used to irrigate crops, can cause heart disease.

The team also found a Korean study that linked cadmium which is found in small amounts in air, water, soil and food with stroke and high blood pressure.

However, they noted other studies into links between the substance and heart problems had mixed results.

Even dust from deserts could be damaging people’s hearts when wind sweeps them away and they travel long distances to big cities and towns, the researchers say.

They said people in Japan were 21 percent more likely to end up in a hospital’s heart department on days when desert dust from China and Mongolia was in the air.

Pollution of air, water and soil is responsible for at least nine million deaths each year.

Soil contamination is a less obvious danger to human health than dirty air but more than 60 per cent of pollution-related disease is due to cardiovascular issues such as heart chronic heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and heart rhythm disorders.

Dirty soil can enter the body when we inhale desert dust, fertilizer crystals, or plastic particles.

Heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, plastics, and organic toxicants (for example in pesticides) can also be consumed orally.

Soil pollutants also wash into rivers and create dirty water which people can end up drinking.

People working in the agricultural and chemical industries are at the highest risk but anyone can ingest pesticides from contaminated food, soil and water.

Study author Professor Thomas Münzel from the University of Mainz said: “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.

“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 globalization of food supply chains and uptake of these heavy metals with fruits, vegetables and meat.

“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.”

The findings were published in the journal Cardiovascular Research.

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