Working in a polluted environment is never ideal and a new study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) shows that Latinx workers who do are more likely to develop heart disease. 

Researchers gathered employment and health information from 782 people, mostly women at 52 percent and age 53—living in the Bronx, Chicago Miami and San Diego—who were employed in environments that exposed them to burning wood, vehicle exhaust, solvents, pesticides and metals. Many work at low-wage jobs, such as on farms with pesticides or in wood-burning environments, such as around California wildfires, but few studies have been conducted around the Latinx community’s exposure to pollution and cardiovascular diseases, until this one. 

“Prior studies have focused on the effects of exposures where people live. And in those studies, people with Hispanic or Latinx backgrounds have been underrepresented,” co-author Jean Claude Uwamungu, a cardiology fellow at Montefiore Medial Center’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, told Court House News. “We looked specifically at a population of Hispanic/Latinx adults to assess the relationship between exposures at work and their heart health.”

Additional takeaways from the study:

  • People exposed to burning wood showed a 3.1 percent decrease in the ability of the heart’s left ventricle to pump blood, compared to workers who did not report working in this environment. 
  •  More participants reported exposure to vehicle exhaust compared with any other occupational exposure and they were more likely to be men. Working around exhaust fumes was shown to slow the time a heart contracts, negatively impacting its output functions.
  • Working around metals showed an increase for stroke.

“These findings support the notion that where people live and work affects cardiovascular health. Policies and interventions to protect the environment and safeguard workers’ health could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart failure especially among low income occupations that have higher exposure to these harmful pollutants,” Uwamungu told Court House News. “Health care professionals should routinely ask patients about exposure to pollutants at work to guide prevention, diagnosis and treatment of early stages of heart disease.”

To read the complete study, visit JAHA’s site here.