A group of researchers in Leeds just released a new study that reveals the carbon monoxide (CO) levels from regular amounts of traffic affect the rhythm of the heart. The study confirms years of studies that revealed regular exposure to CO levels in cities can damage the heart.
The study found that exposure to the gas kept sodium channels open for longer than usual, which affects the heartbeat. A long enough exposure to the gas begins to cause irregular beats of the heart and can sometimes lead to cardiac arrhythmia.
Dr. Helene Wilson, one of the researchers, told the BBC:
This study is a good example of research being used to better understand the underlying causes of an abnormal heart rhythm and in this case it has uncovered the ability of an old drug to perform a new trick.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is tragically common but hopefully these promising results can be replicated in people so that it saves lives in the future.
The Global Post notes that medications and preventative measures can be taken to reverse the damaging effects of CO exposure. A current angina drug can help stabilize the heart and recover the regular heart beats required for healthy blood pressure and physical health. The drug has been tested in partnership with researchers in France but has not been put out on the market quite yet for use as a measure against CO exposure.
Chris Peers from the University of Leeds, where the study was conducted, told the BBC:
At the moment no one knows how to treat this. We’re saying look there’s a drug on the shelf that might be able to help.
Of course it needs clinical trials, but we believe it is a great start.
As many as 500 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning every year according to the Department of Health and Senior Services. In addition, about 50 UK residents die from exposure to the toxin every year.
The CO study was announced the same week as researchers discovered that exposure to an artificial butter flavoring ingredient, called diacetyl, has the potential to affect brain function. There is a possible link between this ingredient and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The study revealed that some factory workers may be at high risk of over-exposure to the substance, according to HealthDay News.
Photo Credit: Osvaldo Gago