Child heart risk from climate and chemicals

The complex interplay of rising temperatures and exposure to polluting compounds and chemicals can damage children’s hearts, experts have warned.

Experts at the University of Exeter have contributed to a new statement from the American Heart Association (AHA). 

The statement explores the impacts of global warming, maternal heat exposure, airborne pollutants, lead, endocrine-disrupting compounds, and exposure to more than 300,000 registered synthetic chemicals on the heart health of newborns, infants, children, and adolescents.

Heat 

It addresses questions including: 

Has industrialisation and rapid technological advancement severely exposed the next generation to grave cardiovascular compromise? 

Do we still doubt the reality of climate change, global warming, and the consequences of thousands of tonnes of chemicals released into the environment every day? How vulnerable are infants’ and children’s hearts to these environmental exposures?

The statement, published in Circulation, is based on contributions from experts at the University of Exeter, as well as the US Baylor College of Medicine, Northwestern University, University of South California, University of Colorado, Cambridge Health Alliance, New York University, and the University of Eastern Finland.

Andrew Agbaje, an award-winning physician and professor of clinical epidemiology and child health at the University of Eastern Finland and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter, said: “Evidence suggests that climate change increases the incidence of congenital heart defects, particularly conotruncal and septal defects, largely explained by maternal heat exposure during pregnancy. 

Damage 

“Moreover, airborne particulate matter pollution may contribute to an increased incidence of Kawasaki Disease and worsen the risk of congenital heart defects. Infants and children exposed to lead metal are at risk of high blood pressure and premature kidney disease. 

“Similarly, exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as bisphenols and phthalates, increases the risk of high blood pressure and dyslipidaemia which are risk factors for premature cardiac and vascular damage.”

Dr Barbara Entl, the Science and Medicine Advisor of the AHA summarised the Top Things to Know about Environmental Exposure and Pediatric Cardiology. 

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