Increased risk of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation episodes associated with acute increases in ambient air pollution

Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Jan;114(1):120-3. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8371.


Objectives: We reported previously that 24-hr moving average ambient air pollution concentrations were positively associated with ventricular arrhythmias detected by implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs). ICDs also detect paroxysmal atrial fibrillation episodes (PAF) that result in rapid ventricular rates. In this same cohort of ICD patients, we assessed the association between ambient air pollution and episodes of PAF.

Design: We performed a case-crossover study.

Participants: Patients who lived in the Boston, Massachusetts, metropolitan area and who had ICDs implanted between June 1995 and December 1999 (n=203) were followed until July 2002.

Evaluations/measurements: We used conditional logistic regression to explore the association between community air pollution and 91 electrophysiologist-confirmed episodes of PAF among 29 subjects.

Results: We found a statistically significant positive association between episodes of PAF and increased ozone concentration (22 ppb) in the hour before the arrhythmia (odds ratio=2.08; 95% confidence interval=1.22, 3.54; p=0.001). The risk estimate for a longer (24-hr) moving average was smaller, thus suggesting an immediate effect. Positive but not statistically significant risks were associated with fine particles, nitrogen dioxide, and black carbon.

Conclusions: Increased ambient O3 pollution was associated with increased risk of episodes of rapid ventricular response due to PAF, thereby suggesting that community air pollution may be a precipitant of these events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / etiology*
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Carbon / analysis
  • Carbon Monoxide / analysis
  • Dust / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Ozone / adverse effects*
  • Ozone / analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sulfur Dioxide / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Dust
  • Sulfur Dioxide
  • Ozone
  • Carbon
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Nitrogen Dioxide