John Incardona links car exhaust to heart disease

Scientists have linked car exhaust with higher risk of heart disease. That’s according to a study led by research toxicologist John Incardona that started with fish.

Scientists have linked car exhaust with higher risk of heart disease. That’s according to a study led by research toxicologist John Incardona of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center near Seattle, Washington.

John Incardona: Well, the fact is that we’re breathing an aerosolized oil spill if you’re in a big city. So that’s the main point, is that there’s this well-known link between ambient, everyday air pollution and heart disease, heart attacks, acute arrythmias.

Incardona’s research got its start from studies of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In the lab, he tested the effects of the ringed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, on the embryos of tropical zebrafish, a medical analog to humans.

John Incardona: We were able to make these observations by directly looking at the beating heart in a living embryo and saw that the function was disrupted by exposure to the three-ringed PAHs.

Because these PAHs have not been linked to cancer, Incardona said they’ve been ignored until now.

John Incardona: What if it really is these compounds that nobody’s looking at and there’s no regulation for them? So that’s why it matters.

We asked Incardona just how much city air pollution contributes to heart attacks.

John Incardona: That’s what we don’t know, right, because we study the fish. We’ve simply identified these compounds as toxic. It’s up to the medical community to go and look at these and ask whether or not these things are contributing to the acute effects of air pollution.

Thanks today to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Our thanks to:
John Incardona
Research Toxicologist
NOAA
Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Seattle, WA

Jorge Salazar