Several studies have reported associations between long-term exposure to ambient fine particulate matter (PM) and cardiovascular mortality. However, the health impacts of long-term exposure to specific constituents of PM2.5 (PM with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm) have not been explored.
We used data from the California Teachers Study, a prospective cohort of active and former female public school professionals. We developed estimates of long-term exposures to PM2.5 and several of its constituents, including elemental carbon, organic carbon (OC), sulfates, nitrates, iron, potassium, silicon, and zinc. Monthly averages of exposure were created using pollution data from June 2002 through July 2007. We included participants whose residential addresses were within 8 and 30 km of a monitor collecting PM2.5 constituent data. Hazard ratios (HRs) were estimated for long-term exposure for mortality from all nontraumatic causes, cardiopulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease (IHD), and pulmonary disease.
Approximately 45,000 women with 2,600 deaths lived within 30 km of a monitor. We observed associations of all-cause, cardiopulmonary, and IHD mortality with PM2.5 mass and each of its measured constituents, and between pulmonary mortality and several constituents. For example, for cardiopulmonary mortality, HRs for interquartile ranges of PM2.5, OC, and sulfates were 1.55 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.43–1.69], 1.80 (95% CI, 1.68–1.93), and 1.79 (95% CI, 1.58–2.03), respectively. Subsequent analyses indicated that, of the constituents analyzed, OC and sulfates had the strongest associations with all four outcomes.
Long-term exposures to PM2.5 and several of its constituents were associated with increased risks of all-cause and cardiopulmonary mortality in this cohort. Constituents derived from combustion of fossil fuel (including diesel), as well as those of crustal origin, were associated with some of the greatest risks. These results provide additional evidence that reduction of ambient PM2.5 may provide significant public health benefits.