Air pollution and the triggering of cardiac arrhythmias

Curr Opin Cardiol. 2010 Jan;25(1):16-22. doi: 10.1097/HCO.0b013e32833358cd.


Purpose of review: The last 5 years have witnessed an explosion in interest regarding cardiac arrhythmias and air pollution. The data have been strongest with respect to ventricular arrhythmias but there is accumulating evidence that air pollution is also associated with supraventricular arrhythmias.

Recent findings: There is clear epidemiological evidence linking air pollution and cardiac mortality. Whether the cardiac mortality was from myocardial ischemia, congestive heart failure or arrhythmic, or all of these pathways, is not clear from the epidemiological data. There is a large body of evidence that air pollution can modify autonomic tone. More recent data, utilizing patients with cardiac disease and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), have clarified the association of air pollution and arrhythmias. Data are also accumulating that air pollution may be associated with atrial arrhythmias.

Summary: The incremental risk of air pollution in triggering arrhythmias or other acute cardiac events is greatest for those patients with underlying cardiac disease. Cardiovascular patients and those at high risk of cardiovascular disease should be educated about the risks for triggering of arrhythmias and other cardiac events by air pollution. These patients should monitor the local forecasted Air Quality Index and follow the recommendations to reduce exposures and limit activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Heart Arrest / etiology
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology