Facemasks can help prevent adverse cardiovascular effects caused by pollution, scientists have shown.
Researchers discovered that pollution from car exhausts caused arteries to stiffen, resulting in higher blood pressure and reduced blood flow to the heart, reports BioMed Central's open access journal Particle and Fibre Toxicology.
Nicholas Mills from the University of Edinburgh worked with a team of researchers to investigate the cardiovascular damage that can be caused by inhaling diesel smoke.
He said, "Acute exposure to diesel exhaust is associated with an immediate and transient increase in arterial stiffness. This may, in part, explain the increased risk for cardiovascular disease associated with air pollution exposure".
To reach the conclusion, the researchers invited a group of 12 non-smoking young men to cycle on exercise bikes while breathing air that had either been filtered or been contaminated with smoke from a diesel engine.
They found that when the subjects were exposed to the polluted air, the blood vessels in their wrists temporarily lost the ability to expand and contract.
In a separate article also published in Particle and Fibre Toxicology, researchers report how wearing a facemask reduces exposure to airborne pollution particles and leads to a reduction blood pressure and improved heart rate control during exercise in a city centre environment.
Jeremy Langrish from the University of Edinburgh said, "We tested a range of facemasks that differed widely in their efficiency as particle filters. In general, those masks designed to reduce occupational exposure to dusts in the workplace were more efficient than those marketed to cyclists and pedestrians."
The authors say, "This simple intervention has the potential to protect susceptible individuals and reduce cardiovascular events in cities with high concentrations of ambient air pollution."