Ambulance calls for heart attacks are more common on days when air pollution levels are high, according to new research being presented at Euroanaesthesia, the annual meeting of the European Society of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care (ESAIC).

Sabine Weingast and colleagues at the Department of Anaesthesiology, School of Medicine, Technical University of Munich, Germany, looked at the links between calls for EMS (ambulances assisted by a doctor) for acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and weather conditions and air pollution levels.

ACS is an umbrella term for heart attacks and unstable angina, which can lead to a heart attack. It is one of the most common causes of death in Germany and of EMS calls, making it a good marker of pressure on the health service.

Almost a third (3,818) of the 12,073 EMS calls in the Munich-Riem area of Munich from 2014 to 2017 were for ACS.

Factoring in data provided by the Munich German weather service revealed that calls for ACS were more likely when air pollution was high. Rises in carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide were all associated with an increase in ACS. 

The analysis also revealed that there were fewer EMS calls in higher temperatures, including fewer for ACS. There was no link, however, between ACS and other weather conditions, such as hours of sunshine, wind speed and cloud cover.

The study’s authors say: “In line with studies in other countries, we found significant correlations between meteorological parameters, air pollution and EMS dispatches due to ACS. These findings show that weather and air pollution influence people’s health, medical resources and healthcare costs.”