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CNN Today

Smog Believed to Impact Some Heart Disease Patients

Aired June 30, 2000 - 1:37 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: No one likes to see a smoggy skyline, but what you can't see could be a serious health risk.

CNN's Greg LaMotte has details of an ongoing study.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG LAMOTTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Smog is bad for you, but can it kill you? Researchers in California think there may be a link between particles found in smog and sudden, fatal heart attacks among those with severe heart disease.

DR. MERLE BOLTON, CARDIOLOGIST: When are there particles in the air, either large particles or ultra fine particles, that this somehow effects the heart rate and it makes patients with heart disease less able to change their heart rate.

LAMOTTE: Researchers believe smog may effect the heart's electrical system, which in turn, could cause fatal heart attacks in people with severely diseased hearts. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is funding a $400,000 study in California, hoping to learn if even moderate air pollution can trigger fatal heart attacks in people like Helen Nederhauser.

She is 77 and has heart disease, when it's smoggy, she knows it.

HELEN NEDERHAUSER, HEART PATIENT: You don't feel like even going to the grocery story some days. You know, you put off doing some of the necessary errands when it's terribly smoggy.

LAMOTTE: Two-dozen Californians with severe heart disease, like Bonnie Henson, were monitored for three months as part of the California study.

DR. BART OSTRO, CALIFORNIA EPA: We're hooking them up to EKG monitors, which will measure heart rate and heart rate variability, and then we're studying whether daily changes in air pollution affect their heart rate and their heart rate variability.

LAMOTTE: Researchers say they believe fatal heart attacks brought on by smog might only effect one percent of all patients with heart disease, or about 12,000 people nationally.

So, should doctors be recommending different treatments for those people?

DR. TIMOTHY DENTON, CARDIOLOGIST: Even in those one percent patients, the extremely sick patients, I'm not sure we should even change our behavior a whole lot, with respect to them.

LAMOTTE: There is no evidence to suggest healthy hearts are at risk from smog.

(on camera): If I don't have heart disease, should I care about this study?

BOLTON: I think, yes, in that it's an example of how things in our environment might affect us. And, again, we're studying patients with heart disease now, but this may be even further impetus for us to see how we can change our environment.

LAMOTTE (voice-over): Bonnie Henson certainly thinks so.

BONNIE HENSON: As long as we're on this Earth we still have time to impact somebody's life.

LAMOTTE: Greg LaMotte, CNN, Rancho Mirage, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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