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Your Environment. Your Health.

Understanding the Effects of Environmental Exposures on the Development of Heart Disease

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)

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"Evidence indicating a link between exposure to environmental agents, like air pollution and metals, and the development of cardiovascular disease has continued to grow over the last 15 years. ARRA funds will allow NIEHS to expand its support of research studying which exposures are most dangerous and how they impact human health." 
— Patrick Mastin, Ph.D., Acting Deputy Director of NIEHS Division of Extramural Research


NIEHS' commitment

Currently, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and may have significant ties to environmental exposures that can be prevented or reduced. Results from NIEHS-funded studies have demonstrated a strong relationship between levels of airborne particles, sulfur dioxide, and other fossil fuel emissions and risk of early death from heart disease. In addition, research has shown that exposure to environmental agents, such as dioxins and pesticides, can contribute to cardiovascular defects. NIEHS is committed to supporting research to understand how such exposures may contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease.

How is the Recovery Act (ARRA) advancing research to address cardiovascular disease?

NIEHS Recovery dollars are supporting research to understand how exposures to pesticides, lead, and air pollution and light pollution may be linked to the development or progression of cardiovascular disease. Researchers are conducting experiments to determine risk, routes of exposure, and possible interventions. Their research will greatly enhance the current body of knowledge surrounding the relationship between environmental exposures and cardiovascular disease, with the ultimate goal of providing regulatory agencies with the scientific data necessary to develop national standards that adequately protect the health of U.S. citizens.

Recovery Act Spotlight

Researchers investigating the possible link between environmental exposures and cardiovascular disease


ResearcherResearch Description
Edward Avol, M.S.
University of Southern California,
Los Angeles
The impact of air pollution on artery hardening in college students
Studying a very early indicator of artery hardening (the thickness of the carotid artery wall) in young people exposed to air pollution in the Los Angeles area.
Janice E. Chambers, Ph.D.
Mississippi State University
Relationship between pesticide exposure and cardiovascular disease
Studying whether exposure to pesticides contributes to development of cardiovascular disease, especially in the South and among African-Americans.
 Karyn A. Esser, Ph.D.
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Clock genes, environmental challenges and cardiopulmonary disease
Testing whether the interaction between altered circadian genes and light pollution increases progression of cardiopulmonary disease in shift workers.
Murray A. Mittleman, M.D.
Beth Israel Deconess Medical Center
Boston, Massachusetts
Linkages between air pollution and stroke
Studying whether exposure to air pollution is linked to stroke, similar to the way air pollution has been shown to contribute to heart disease.
Kenneth Ramos, Ph.D.
University of Louisville, Kentucky
How DNA movement and environmental exposures contribute to the hardening of arteries
Researching how pieces of DNA that move from place to place in your genes can contribute to hardening of the arteries that is caused by environmental exposures.
Lisa Satterwhite, Ph.D.
Duke University
Durham, North Carolina

Success Story
Toxicity of PCBs and pesticides during pregnancy
Using a unique type of animal (genetically altered fish) to try to understand how environmental chemicals might lead to heart defects.

Learn more about NIEHS research in cardiovascular disease

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