Exposure to particulate matter air pollution (PM) has been associated with cardiovascular diseases.
In this study we evaluated whether annual exposure to ambient air pollution is associated with systemic inflammation, which is hypothesized to be an intermediate step to cardiovascular disease.
Six cohorts of adults from Central and Northern Europe were used in this cross-sectional study as part of the larger ESCAPE project (European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects). Data on levels of blood markers for systemic inflammation—high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen—were available for 22,561 and 17,428 persons, respectively. Land use regression models were used to estimate cohort participants’ long-term exposure to various size fractions of PM, soot, and nitrogen oxides (NOx). In addition, traffic intensity on the closest street and traffic load within 100 m from home were used as indicators of traffic air pollution exposure.
Particulate air pollution was not associated with systemic inflammation. However, cohort participants living on a busy (> 10,000 vehicles/day) road had elevated CRP values (10.2%; 95% CI: 2.4, 18.8%, compared with persons living on a quiet residential street with < 1,000 vehicles/day). Annual NOx concentration was also positively associated with levels of CRP (3.2%; 95% CI: 0.3, 6.1 per 20 μg/m3), but the effect estimate was more sensitive to model adjustments. For fibrinogen, no consistent associations were observed.
Living close to busy traffic was associated with increased CRP concentrations, a known risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. However, it remains unclear which specific air pollutants are responsible for the association.
Lanki T, Hampel R, Tiittanen P, Andrich S, Beelen R, Brunekreef B, Dratva J, De Faire U, Fuks KB, Hoffmann B, Imboden M, Jousilahti P, Koenig W, Mahabadi AA, Künzli N, Pedersen NL, Penell J, Pershagen G, Probst-Hensch NM, Schaffner E, Schindler C, Sugiri D, Swart WJ, Tsai MY, Turunen AW, Weinmayr G, Wolf K, Yli-Tuomi T, Peters A. 2015. Air pollution from road traffic and systemic inflammation in adults: a cross-sectional analysis in the European ESCAPE project. Environ Health Perspect 123:785–791; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1408224