OPOLE, POLAND. Researchers at the Institute of Technology in Opole, Poland have undertaken a project to determine how environmental pollution affects the incidence of common diseases and disorders. They are using the concentration of various elements found in rainwater as an indicator of the degree of environmental pollution. The Opole province has a population of 1 million divided into 12 counties. Regular rainwater sampling and analysis is done in each county and expressed in grams per hectare per year.
The researchers now report a strong correlation between rainwater content of chromium (correlation coefficient = 0.62, p= <0.05) and the number of hospital admissions for atrial fibrillation (AF). For example, in the county of Namyslowski the incidence of admission to hospital for AF was 20 per 10,000 inhabitants per year and the rainwater content of chromium was 2.6 grams/hectare/year. In contrast, the county of Strzelecki reported 130 admissions per 10,000 inhabitants and chromium content of 3.5 grams/hectare/year. The rainwater content of cadmium, lead and zinc was also positively correlated with the incidence of AF with correlation coefficients of 0.57, 0.57 and 0.50 respectively at a significance level of p= <0.05.
The researchers speculate that the effect of chromium is related to its effect on the autonomic nervous system and the cytotoxic activity of hexavalent chromium. There are also reports suggesting possible relations between cadmium, lead and zinc and increased adrenergic stimulation. Finally, recent research has revealed a positive correlation between zinc content of cardiac cells and AF.
Tubek, S, et al. The content of elements in rainwater and its relation to the frequency of hospitalization for atrial fibrillation in Opole Voivodship, Poland, during 2000 – 2002. Biological Trace Element Research, Vol. 138, 2010, pp. 1-7