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Aug 28, 2014 05:24 AM EDT

Black Carbon Increases Cardiovascular Disease Risk among Women, Study

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Wood smoke pollutants increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases in women, according to a McGill University study.

According to Think Global Green, Black carbon is a component of soot that is emitted from the burning of fossil fuels and plant materials. It has recently emerged as a leading contributor to rising temperatures worldwide. The researchers said that black carbon pollutants from wood smoke trap heat near the earth's surface and therefore, warm the climate.

In an attempt to understand the effects of black carbon pollutants on the health of women using traditional wood stoves, the researchers measured the daily exposure to different air pollutant types including black carbon, in 280 women in China's rural Yunnan province.

"China's unprecedented economic growth is fuelling massive increases in industrial and motor vehicle pollution, and 700 million Chinese homes still cook with wood and coal fuels. We wanted to identify the pollution sources that most impact human health to help inform these pollution control efforts," Professor Jill Baumgartner said in a statement.

During the measurements, women were fitted with wearable air samplers that accumulated fine particulate matter. Their blood pressure, salt intake, physical activity, proximity to highways and Body Mass Index were also considered.

The esearchers found that exposure to black carbon pollutants had the largest impact on women's blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. "In fact, black carbon's effect was twice that of particulate matter, the pollutant measured most often in health studies or evaluating cleaner cookstoves," said Baumgartner.

The researchers also found that women exposed to both wood smoke and traffic emissions had three times higher blood pressure than those living away from highways. The health effects of wood smoke doubles with co-exposure to motor vehicle emissions

Baumgartner said that policies that decrease combustion pollution by replacing inefficient wood stoves and reducing traffic pollution will profit both climate and public health.

The study titled, "Highway proximity and black carbon from cookstoves as a risk factor for higher blood pressure in rural China", is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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