Fine particulate matter air pollution plus ozone impairs vascular function and raises diastolic blood pressure. We aimed to determine the mechanism and air pollutant responsible. The effects of pollution on heart rate variability, blood pressure, biomarkers, and brachial flow-mediated dilatation were determined in 2 randomized, double-blind, cross-over studies. In Ann Arbor, 50 subjects were exposed to fine particles (150 μg/m3) + ozone (120 ppb) for 2 hours on 3 occasions with pretreatments of an endothelin antagonist (Bosentan 250 mg), anti-oxidant (Vitamin C 2 g), or placebo. In Toronto, 31 subjects were exposed to 4 different conditions (particles + ozone, particles, ozone, and filtered air). In Toronto, diastolic blood pressure significantly increased (2.9 and 3.6 mm Hg) only during particle-containing exposures in association with particulate matter concentration and reductions in heart rate variability. Flow-mediated dilatation significantly decreased (2.0 and 2.9%) only 24 hours after particle-containing exposures in association with particulate matter concentration and increases in blood tumor necrosis factor-alpha. In Ann Arbor, diastolic blood pressure significantly similarly increased during all exposures (2.5 - 4.0 mm Hg), a response not mitigated by pretreatments. Flow-mediated dilatation remained unaltered. Particulate matter, not ozone, was responsible for increasing diastolic blood pressure during air pollution inhalation most plausibly by instigating acute autonomic imbalance. Only particles from urban Toronto additionally impaired endothelial function likely via slower proinflammatory pathways. Our findings demonstrate credible mechanisms whereby fine particulate matter could trigger acute cardiovascular events and that aspects of exposure location may be an important determinant of the health consequences.
Keywords: hypertension, endothelium, sympathetic nervous system, inflammation, oxidative stress