Dr Rajiv Chowdhury, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, has led research demonstrating that even low doses of toxic chemicals in the environment pose a significant risk to cardiovascular health. In an article published in The BMJ, the researchers challenged the omission of environmental risk factors such as toxic metal contaminants in water and foods from the recent World Health Organization report on non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The research team interpreted available evidence on carcinogenic metals through carrying out a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies covering 350,000 unique participants from 37 countries. The results of the study showed that exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium and copper – but not mercury – was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
“It’s clear from our analysis that there’s a possible link between exposure to heavy metals or metalloids and risk of conditions such as heart disease, even at low doses – and the greater the exposure, the greater the risk,” says Rajiv. “While people shouldn’t be overly worried about any immediate health risk, it should send a message to policymakers that we need to take action to reduce people’s exposure.”