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1.  Air pollution and respiratory symptoms among children with asthma: Vulnerability by corticosteroid use and residence area☆ 
Information on how ambient air pollution affects susceptible populations is needed to ensure protective air quality standards.
To estimate the effect of community-level ambient particulate matter (PM) and ozone (O3) on respiratory symptoms among primarily African-American and Latino, lower-income asthmatic children living in Detroit, Michigan and to evaluate factors associated with heterogeneity in observed health effects.
A cohort of 298 children with asthma was studied prospectively from 1999 to 2002. For 14 days each season over 11 seasons, children completed a respiratory symptom diary. Simultaneously, ambient pollutant concentrations were measured at two community-level monitoring sites. Logistic regression models using generalized estimating equations were fit for each respiratory symptom in single pollutant models, looking for interactions by area or by corticosteroid use, a marker of more severe asthma. Exposures of interest were: daily concentrations of PM<10 μm, <2.5 μm, and between 10 and 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10, PM2.5, and PM10–2.5, respectively), the daily 8-hour maximum concentration of O3 (8HrPeak), and the daily 1-hour maximum concentration of O3 (1HrPeak).
Outdoor PM2.5, PM10, 8HrPeak, and 1HrPeak O3 concentrations were associated with increased odds of respiratory symptoms, particularly among children using corticosteroid medication and among children living in the southwest community of Detroit. Similar patterns of associations were not seen with PM10–2.5.
PM2.5 and O3 at levels near or below annual standard levels are associated with negative health impact in this population of asthmatic children. Variation in effects within the city of Detroit and among the subgroup using steroids emphasizes the importance of spatially refined exposure assessment and the need for further studies to elucidate mechanisms and effective risk reduction interventions.
PMCID: PMC4327853  PMID: 23273373
Asthma; Child; Community-based participatory research; Particulate matter; Ozone; Vulnerable populations
2.  Susceptibility to Mortality in Weather Extremes: Effect Modification by Personal and Small Area Characteristics In a Multi-City Case-Only Analysis 
Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.)  2013;24(6):809-819.
Extremes of temperature have been associated with short-term increases in daily mortality. We identified subpopulations with increased susceptibility to dying during temperature extremes, based on personal demographics, small-area characteristics and preexisting medical conditions.
We examined Medicare participants in 135 U.S. cities and identified preexisting conditions based on hospitalization records prior to their deaths, from 1985–2006. Personal characteristics were obtained from the Medicare records, and area characteristics were assigned based on zip-code of residence. We conducted a case-only analysis of over 11 million deaths, and evaluated modification of the risk of dying associated with extremely hot days and extremely cold days, continuous temperatures, and water-vapor pressure. Modifiers included preexisting conditions, personal characteristics, zip-code-level population characteristics, and land-cover characteristics. For each effect modifier, a city-specific logistic regression model was fitted and then an overall national estimate was calculated using meta-analysis.
People with certain preexisting conditions were more susceptible to extreme heat, with an additional 6% (95% confidence interval= 4% – 8%) increase in the risk of dying on an extremely hot day in subjects with previous admission for atrial fibrillation, an additional 8% (4%–12%) in subjects with Alzheimer disease, and an additional 6% (3%–9%) in subjects with dementia. Zip-code level and personal characteristics were also associated with increased susceptibility to temperature.
We identified several subgroups of the population who are particularly susceptible to temperature extremes, including persons with atrial fibrillation.
PMCID: PMC4304207  PMID: 24045717
3.  Do Psychosocial Stress and Social Disadvantage Modify the Association Between Air Pollution and Blood Pressure? 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2013;178(10):1550-1562.
Researchers have theorized that social and psychosocial factors increase vulnerability to the deleterious health effects of environmental hazards. We used baseline examination data (2000–2002) from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Participants were 45–84 years of age and free of clinical cardiovascular disease at enrollment (n = 6814). The modifying role of social and psychosocial factors on the association between exposure to air pollution comprising particulate matter less than 2.5 µm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5) and blood pressure measures were examined using linear regression models. There was no evidence of synergistic effects of higher PM2.5 and adverse social/psychosocial factors on blood pressure. In contrast, there was weak evidence of stronger associations of PM2.5 with blood pressure in higher socioeconomic status groups. For example, those in the 10th percentile of the income distribution (i.e., low income) showed no association between PM2.5 and diastolic blood pressure (b = −0.41 mmHg; 95% confidence interval: −1.40, 0.61), whereas those in the 90th percentile of the income distribution (i.e., high income) showed a 1.52-mmHg increase in diastolic blood pressure for each 10-µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 (95% confidence interval: 0.22, 2.83). Our results are not consistent with the hypothesis that there are stronger associations between PM2.5 exposures and blood pressure in persons of lower socioeconomic status or those with greater psychosocial adversity.
PMCID: PMC3888274  PMID: 24064742
air pollution; blood pressure; population groups; social environment; social medicine; social psychology
4.  Heat, Heat Waves, and Hospital Admissions among the Elderly in the United States, 1992–2006 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2014;122(11):1187-1192.
Background: Heat-wave frequency, intensity, and duration are increasing with global climate change. The association between heat and mortality in the elderly is well documented, but less is known regarding associations with hospital admissions.
Objectives: Our goal was to determine associations between moderate and extreme heat, heat waves, and hospital admissions for nonaccidental causes among Medicare beneficiaries ≥ 65 years of age in 114 cities across five U.S. climate zones.
Methods: We used Medicare inpatient billing records and city-specific data on temperature, humidity, and ozone from 1992 through 2006 in a time-stratified case-crossover design to estimate the association between hospitalization and moderate [90th percentile of apparent temperature (AT)] and extreme (99th percentile of AT) heat and heat waves (AT above the 95th percentile over 2–8 days). In sensitivity analyses, we additionally considered confounding by ozone and holidays, different temperature metrics, and alternate models of the exposure–response relationship.
Results: Associations between moderate heat and hospital admissions were minimal, but extreme heat was associated with a 3% (95% CI: 2%, 4%) increase in all-cause hospital admissions over the subsequent 8 days. In cause-specific analyses, extreme heat was associated with increased hospitalizations for renal (15%; 95% CI: 9%, 21%) and respiratory (4%; 95% CI: 2%, 7%) diseases, but not for cardiovascular diseases. An added heat-wave effect was observed for renal and respiratory admissions.
Conclusion: Extreme heat is associated with increased hospital admissions, particularly for renal causes, among the elderly in the United States.
Citation: Gronlund CJ, Zanobetti A, Schwartz JD, Wellenius GA, O’Neill MS. 2014. Heat, heat waves, and hospital admissions among the elderly in the United States, 1992–2006. Environ Health Perspect 122:1187–1192;
PMCID: PMC4216145  PMID: 24905551
5.  Using Forecast and Observed Weather Data to Assess Performance of Forecast Products in Identifying Heat Waves and Estimating Heat Wave Effects on Mortality 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2014;122(9):912-918.
Background: Heat wave and health warning systems are activated based on forecasts of health-threatening hot weather.
Objective: We estimated heat–mortality associations based on forecast and observed weather data in Detroit, Michigan, and compared the accuracy of forecast products for predicting heat waves.
Methods: We derived and compared apparent temperature (AT) and heat wave days (with heat waves defined as ≥ 2 days of daily mean AT ≥ 95th percentile of warm-season average) from weather observations and six different forecast products. We used Poisson regression with and without adjustment for ozone and/or PM10 (particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 10 μm) to estimate and compare associations of daily all-cause mortality with observed and predicted AT and heat wave days.
Results: The 1-day-ahead forecast of a local operational product, Revised Digital Forecast, had about half the number of false positives compared with all other forecasts. On average, controlling for heat waves, days with observed AT = 25.3°C were associated with 3.5% higher mortality (95% CI: –1.6, 8.8%) than days with AT = 8.5°C. Observed heat wave days were associated with 6.2% higher mortality (95% CI: –0.4, 13.2%) than non–heat wave days. The accuracy of predictions varied, but associations between mortality and forecast heat generally tended to overestimate heat effects, whereas associations with forecast heat waves tended to underestimate heat wave effects, relative to associations based on observed weather metrics.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that incorporating knowledge of local conditions may improve the accuracy of predictions used to activate heat wave and health warning systems.
Citation: Zhang K, Chen YH, Schwartz JD, Rood RB, O’Neill MS. 2014. Using forecast and observed weather data to assess performance of forecast products in identifying heat waves and estimating heat wave effects on mortality. Environ Health Perspect 122:912–918;
PMCID: PMC4154209  PMID: 24833618
6.  Survey of County-Level Heat Preparedness and Response to the 2011 Summer Heat in 30 U.S. States 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2014;122(6):573-579.
Background: Adapting to extreme heat is becoming more critical as our climate changes. Previous research reveals that very few communities in the United States have programs to sufficiently prevent health problems during hot weather.
Objective: Our goal was to examine county-level local heat preparedness and response in 30 U.S. states following the unusually hot summer of 2011.
Methods: Using a multimodal survey approach, we invited local health and emergency response departments from 586 counties to participate in the largest survey to date of heat preparedness and response in the United States. County-level responses were pooled into national and regional-level summaries. Logistic regressions modeled associations between heat planning/response and county characteristics, including population, poverty rates, typical summer weather, and 2011 summer weather.
Results: Of 586 counties, 190 (32%) responded to the survey. Only 40% of these counties had existing heat plans. The most common heat responses were communication about heat, outreach, and collaborations with other organizations. Both heat preparedness and heat response were, on average, more extensive in counties with higher populations, lower poverty rates, and lower percentages of older people. Heat response was generally more extensive in counties with heat plans.
Conclusions: Most responding counties were underprepared for extreme heat in 2011 and lacked a formal response plan. Because counties with heat plans were more likely to act to prevent adverse heat impacts to residents, local health departments should consider adopting such plans, especially because increased extreme heat is anticipated with further climate change.
Citation: White-Newsome JL, Ekwurzel B, Baer-Schultz M, Ebi KL, O’Neill MS, Anderson GB. 2014. Survey of county-level heat preparedness and response to the 2011 summer heat in 30 U.S. States. Environ Health Perspect 122:573–579;
PMCID: PMC4048256  PMID: 24618250
7.  Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Narrative Abstract
Research to date demonstrates a relationship between exposure to ambient air pollutants and cardiovascular disease. Many studies have shown associations between short-term exposures to elevated levels of air pollutants and cardiovascular disease events, and several cohort studies suggest effects of long-term exposure on cardiovascular mortality, coronary heart disease events, and stroke. The biological mechanisms underlying this chronic exposure relationship are not entirely clear, but are hypothesized to include systemic inflammation, autonomic nervous system imbalance, changes in vascular compliance, altered cardiac structure, and development of atherosclerosis. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis provides an especially well-characterized population in which to investigate the relationship between air pollution and cardiovascular disease and to explore these biological pathways. This paper reviews findings reported to date within this cohort, and summarizes the aims and anticipated contributions of a major ancillary study, the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and Air Pollution.
PMCID: PMC4016948  PMID: 21414470
Air pollution; cardiovascular disease; subclinical atherosclerosis; progression
8.  Air pollution, inflammation and preterm birth in Mexico City: Study design and methods 
Preterm birth is one of the leading causes of perinatal mortality and is associated with long-term adverse health consequences for surviving infants. Preterm birth rates are rising worldwide, and no effective means for prevention currently exists. Air pollution exposure may be a significant cause of prematurity, but many published studies lack the individual, clinical data needed to elucidate possible biological mechanisms mediating these epidemiological associations. This paper presents the design of a prospective study now underway to evaluate those mechanisms in a cohort of pregnant women residing in Mexico City. We address how air quality may act together with other factors to induce systemic inflammation and influence the duration of pregnancy. Data collection includes: biomarkers relevant to inflammation in cervico-vaginal exudate and peripheral blood, along with full clinical information, pro-inflammatory cytokine gene polymorphisms and air pollution data to evaluate spatial and temporal variability in air pollution exposure. Samples are collected on a monthly basis and participants are followed for the duration of pregnancy. The data will be used to evaluate whether ambient air pollution is associated with preterm birth, controlling for other risk factors. We will evaluate which time windows during pregnancy are most influential in the air pollution and preterm birth association. In addition, the epidemiological study will be complemented with a parallel toxicology invitro study, in which monocytic cells will be exposed to air particle samples to evaluate the expression of biomarkers of inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3594336  PMID: 23177781
air pollution; epidemiology; toxicology; preterm birth; inflammation; Mexico City
9.  Associations between Extreme Precipitation and Gastrointestinal-Related Hospital Admissions in Chennai, India 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2013;122(3):249-254.
Background: Understanding the potential links between extreme weather events and human health in India is important in the context of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change. Research exploring such linkages in India is sparse.
Objectives: We evaluated the association between extreme precipitation and gastrointestinal (GI) illness-related hospital admissions in Chennai, India, from 2004 to 2007.
Methods: Daily hospital admissions were extracted from two government hospitals in Chennai, India, and meteorological data were retrieved from the Chennai International Airport. We evaluated the association between extreme precipitation (≥ 90th percentile) and hospital admissions using generalized additive models. Both single-day and distributed lag models were explored over a 15-day period, controlling for apparent temperature, day of week, and long-term time trends. We used a stratified analysis to explore the association across age and season.
Results: Extreme precipitation was consistently associated with GI-related hospital admissions. The cumulative summary of risk ratios estimated for a 15-day period corresponding to an extreme event (relative to no precipitation) was 1.60 (95% CI: 1.29, 1.98) among all ages, 2.72 (95% CI: 1.25, 5.92) among the young (≤ 5 years of age), and 1.62 (95% CI: 0.97, 2.70) among the old (≥ 65 years of age). The association was stronger during the pre-monsoon season (March–May), with a cumulative risk ratio of 6.50 (95% CI: 2.22, 19.04) for all ages combined compared with other seasons.
Conclusions: Hospital admissions related to GI illness were positively associated with extreme precipitation in Chennai, India, with positive cumulative risk ratios for a 15-day period following an extreme event in all age groups. Projected changes in precipitation and extreme weather events suggest that climate change will have important implications for human health in India, where health disparities already exist.
Citation: Bush KF, O’Neill MS, Li S, Mukherjee B, Hu H, Ghosh S, Balakrishnan K. 2014. Associations between extreme precipitation and gastrointestinal-related hospital admissions in Chennai, India. Environ Health Perspect 122:249–254;
PMCID: PMC3948034  PMID: 24345350
10.  Strategies to Reduce the Harmful Effects of Extreme Heat Events: A Four-City Study  
Extreme heat events (EHEs) are becoming more intense, more frequent and longer lasting in the 21st century. These events can disproportionately impact the health of low-income, minority, and urban populations. To better understand heat-related intervention strategies used by four U.S. cities, we conducted 73 semi-structured interviews with government and non-governmental organization leaders representing public health, general social services, emergency management, meteorology, and the environmental planning sectors in Detroit, MI; New York City, NY; Philadelphia, PA and Phoenix, AZ—cities selected for their diverse demographics, climates, and climate adaptation strategies. We identified activities these leaders used to reduce the harmful effects of heat for residents in their city, as well as the obstacles they faced and the approaches they used to evaluate these efforts. Local leaders provided a description of how local context (e.g., climate, governance and city structure) impacted heat preparedness. Despite the differences among study cities, political will and resource access were critical to driving heat-health related programming. Upon completion of our interviews, we convened leaders in each city to discuss these findings and their ongoing efforts through day-long workshops. Our findings and the recommendations that emerged from these workshops could inform other local or national efforts towards preventing heat-related morbidity and mortality.
PMCID: PMC3945579  PMID: 24531122
extreme heat events; climate change; urban areas; vulnerable populations; health risks; heat-related health interventions
11.  Extreme Precipitation and Beach Closures in the Great Lakes Region: Evaluating Risk among the Elderly 
As a result of climate change, extreme precipitation events are expected to increase in frequency and intensity. Runoff from these extreme events poses threats to water quality and human health. We investigated the impact of extreme precipitation and beach closings on the risk of gastrointestinal illness (GI)-related hospital admissions among individuals 65 and older in 12 Great Lakes cities from 2000 to 2006. Poisson regression models were fit in each city, controlling for temperature and long-term time trends. City-specific estimates were combined to form an overall regional risk estimate. Approximately 40,000 GI-related hospital admissions and over 100 beach closure days were recorded from May through September during the study period. Extreme precipitation (≥90th percentile) occurring the previous day (lag 1) is significantly associated with beach closures in 8 of the 12 cities (p < 0.05). However, no association was observed between beach closures and GI-related hospital admissions. These results support previous work linking extreme precipitation to compromised recreational water quality.
PMCID: PMC3945582  PMID: 24534768
aged; bathing beaches; climate change; Great Lakes region; gastrointestinal diseases; rain
12.  Environmental contaminant exposures and preterm birth: A comprehensive review 
Preterm birth is a significant public health concern, as it is associated with high risk of infant mortality, various morbidities in both the neonatal period and later in life, and a significant societal economic burden. As many cases are of unknown etiology, identification of the contribution of environmental contaminant exposures is a priority in the study of preterm birth. This is a comprehensive review of all known studies published from 1992 through August 2012 linking maternal exposure to environmental chemicals during pregnancy with preterm birth. Using PubMed searches studies were identified that examined associations between preterm birth and exposure to 5 categories of environmental toxicants, including persistent organic pollutants, drinking water contaminants, atmospheric pollutants, metals and metalloids, and other environmental contaminants. Individual studies were summarized and specific suggestions made for future work in regard to exposure and outcome assessment methods as well as study design, with the recommendation of focusing on potential mediating toxicological mechanisms. In conclusion, no consistent evidence was found for positive associations between individual chemical exposures and preterm birth. By identifying limitations and addressing the gaps that may have impeded the ability to identify true associations thus far, this review can guide future epidemiologic studies of environmental exposures and preterm birth.
PMCID: PMC3889157  PMID: 23682677
13.  Vascular Responses to Long- and Short-Term Exposure to Fine Particulate Matter 
This study evaluated the association of long- and short-term air pollutant exposures with flow-mediated dilation (FMD) and baseline arterial diameter (BAD) of the brachial artery using ultrasound in a large multicity cohort.
Exposures to ambient air pollution, especially long-term exposure to particulate matter <2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5), are linked with cardiovascular mortality. Short-term exposure to PM2.5 has been associated with decreased FMD and vasoconstriction, suggesting that adverse effects of PM2.5 may involve endothelial dysfunction. However, long-term effects of PM2.5 on endothelial dysfunction have not been investigated.
FMD and BAD were measured by brachial artery ultrasound at the initial examination of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Long-term PM2.5 concentrations were estimated for the year 2000 at each participant’s residence (n = 3,040) using a spatio-temporal model informed by cohort-specific monitoring. Short-term PM2.5 concentrations were based on daily central-site monitoring in each of the 6 cities.
An interquartile increase in long-term PM2.5 concentration (3 μg/m3) was associated with a 0.3% decrease in FMD (95% confidence interval [CI] of difference: −0.6 to −0.03; p = 0.03), adjusting for demographic characteristics, traditional risk factors, sonographers, and 1/BAD. Women, nonsmokers, younger participants, and those with hypertension seemed to show a greater association of PM2.5 with FMD. FMD was not significantly associated with short-term variation in PM2.5 (−0.1% per 12 μg/m3 daily increase [95% CI: −0.2 to 0.04] on the day before examination).
Long-term PM2.5 exposure was significantly associated with decreased endothelial function according to brachial ultrasound results. These findings may elucidate an important pathway linking air pollution and cardiovascular mortality.
PMCID: PMC3665082  PMID: 23103035
air pollution; atherosclerosis; cardiovascular mortality; endothelial function; flow-mediated dilation; traffic
14.  Air Pollution and Individual and Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status: Evidence from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2013;121(11-12):1325-1333.
Background: Although research has shown that low socioeconomic status (SES) and minority communities have higher exposure to air pollution, few studies have simultaneously investigated the associations of individual and neighborhood SES with pollutants across multiple sites.
Objectives: We characterized the distribution of ambient air pollution by both individual and neighborhood SES using spatial regression methods.
Methods: The study population comprised 6,140 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Year 2000 annual average ambient PM2.5 and NOx concentrations were calculated for each study participant’s home address at baseline examination. We investigated individual and neighborhood (2000 U.S. Census tract level) SES measures corresponding to the domains of income, wealth, education, and occupation. We used a spatial intrinsic conditional autoregressive model for multivariable analysis and examined pooled and metropolitan area–specific models.
Results: A 1-unit increase in the z-score for family income was associated with 0.03-μg/m3 lower PM2.5 (95% CI: –0.05, –0.01) and 0.93% lower NOx (95% CI: –1.33, –0.53) after adjustment for covariates. A 1-SD–unit increase in the neighborhood’s percentage of persons with at least a high school degree was associated with 0.47-μg/m3 lower mean PM2.5 (95% CI: –0.55, –0.40) and 9.61% lower NOx (95% CI: –10.85, –8.37). Metropolitan area–specific results exhibited considerable heterogeneity. For example, in New York, high-SES neighborhoods were associated with higher concentrations of pollution.
Conclusions: We found statistically significant associations of SES measures with predicted air pollutant concentrations, demonstrating the importance of accounting for neighborhood- and individual-level SES in air pollution health effects research.
Citation: Hajat A, Diez-Roux AV, Adar SD, Auchincloss AH, Lovasi GS, O’Neill MS, Sheppard L, Kaufman JD. 2013. Air pollution and individual and neighborhood socioeconomic status: evidence from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Environ Health Perspect 121:1325–1333;
PMCID: PMC3855503  PMID: 24076625
15.  Comparing exposure metrics for classifying ‘dangerous heat’ in heat wave and health warning systems 
Environment International  2012;46:23-29.
Heat waves have been linked to excess mortality and morbidity, and are projected to increase in frequency and intensity with a warming climate. This study compares exposure metrics to trigger heat wave and health warning systems (HHWS), and introduces a novel multi-level hybrid clustering method to identify potential dangerously hot days. Two-level and three-level hybrid clustering analysis as well as common indices used to trigger HHWS, including spatial synoptic classification (SSC); and 90th, 95th, and 99th percentiles of minimum and relative minimum temperature (using a 10 day reference period), were calculated using a summertime weather dataset in Detroit from 1976 to 2006. The days classified as ‘hot’ with hybrid clustering analysis, SSC, minimum and relative minimum temperature methods differed by method type. SSC tended to include the days with, on average, 2.6 °C lower daily minimum temperature and 5.3 °C lower dew point than days identified by other methods. These metrics were evaluated by comparing their performance in predicting excess daily mortality. The 99th percentile of minimum temperature was generally the most predictive, followed by the three-level hybrid clustering method, the 95th percentile of minimum temperature, SSC and others. Our proposed clustering framework has more flexibility and requires less substantial meteorological prior information than the synoptic classification methods. Comparison of these metrics in predicting excess daily mortality suggests that metrics thought to better characterize physiological heat stress by considering several weather conditions simultaneously may not be the same metrics that are better at predicting heat-related mortality, which has significant implications in HHWSs.
PMCID: PMC3401591  PMID: 22673187
Air mass; Heat wave; Heat health warning system; Model-based clustering; Temperature
16.  Validating Satellite-Derived Land Surface Temperature with in Situ Measurements: A Public Health Perspective 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2013;121(8):925-931.
Background: Land surface temperature (LST) and percent surface imperviousness (SI), both derived from satellite imagery, have been used to characterize the urban heat island effect, a phenomenon in which urban areas are warmer than non-urban areas.
Objectives: We aimed to assess the correlations between LSTs and SI images with actual temperature readings from a ground-based network of outdoor monitors.
Methods: We evaluated the relationships among a) LST calculated from a 2009 summertime satellite image of the Detroit metropolitan region, Michigan; b) SI from the 2006 National Land Cover Data Set; and c) ground-based temperature measurements monitored during the same time period at 19 residences throughout the Detroit metropolitan region. Associations between these ground-based temperatures and the average LSTs and SI at different radii around the point of the ground-based temperature measurement were evaluated at different time intervals. Spearman correlation coefficients and corresponding p-values were calculated.
Results: Satellite-derived LST and SI values were significantly correlated with 24-hr average and August monthly average ground temperatures at all but two of the radii examined (100 m for LST and 0 m for SI). Correlations were also significant for temperatures measured between 0400 and 0500 hours for SI, except at 0 m, but not LST. Statistically significant correlations ranging from 0.49 to 0.91 were observed between LST and SI.
Conclusions: Both SI and LST could be used to better understand spatial variation in heat exposures over longer time frames but are less useful for estimating shorter-term, actual temperature exposures, which can be useful for public health preparedness during extreme heat events.
PMCID: PMC3734495  PMID: 23777856
epidemiology; ground truthing; heat; Landsat satellite; land surface temperature; remote sensing; surface imperviousness; temperature; urban areas
17.  Ambient Temperature, Air Pollution, and Heart Rate Variability in an Aging Population 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2011;173(9):1013-1021.
Studies show that ambient temperature and air pollution are associated with cardiovascular disease and that they may interact to affect cardiovascular events. However, few epidemiologic studies have examined mechanisms through which ambient temperature may influence cardiovascular function. The authors examined whether temperature was associated with heart rate variability (HRV) in a Boston, Massachusetts, study population and whether such associations were modified by ambient air pollution concentrations. The population was a cohort of 694 older men examined between 2000 and 2008. The authors fitted a mixed model to examine associations between temperature and air pollution and their interactions with repeated HRV measurements, adjusting for covariates selected a priori on the basis of their previous studies. Results showed that higher ambient temperature was associated with decreases in HRV measures (standard deviation of normal-to-normal intervals, low-frequency power, and high-frequency power) during the warm season but not during the cold season. These warm-season associations were significantly greater when ambient ozone levels were higher (>22.3 ppb) but did not differ according to levels of ambient fine (≤2.5 μm) particulate matter. The authors conclude that temperature and ozone, exposures to both of which are expected to increase with climate change, might act together to worsen cardiovascular health and/or precipitate cardiovascular events via autonomic nervous system dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC3121221  PMID: 21385834
air pollution; heart rate; interaction; ozone; particulate matter; temperature
18.  Urinary Bisphenol A and Type-2 Diabetes in U.S. Adults: Data from NHANES 2003-2008 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26868.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in plastics and other consumer products; exposure may lead to insulin resistance and development of type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) through over-activation of pancreatic β-cells. Previous studies using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed an inconsistent association between prevalence of self-reported T2DM and urinary BPA. We used a different diagnosis method of T2DM (hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c)) with a larger subset of NHANES.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed data from 4,389 adult participants who were part of a sub-study of environmental phenol measurements in urine from three NHANES cycles from 2003 to 2008. T2DM was defined as having a HbA1c ≥6.5% or use of diabetes medication. The weighted prevalence of T2DM was 9.2%. Analysis of the total sample revealed that a two-fold increase in urinary BPA was associated with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.08 of T2DM (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.02 to 1.16), after controlling for potential confounders. However, when we examined each NHANES cycle individually, we only found a statistically significant association in the 2003/04 cycle (n = 1,364, OR = 1.23 (95% CI, 1.07 to 1.42) for each doubling in urinary BPA). We found no association in either the NHANES cycle from 2005/06 (n = 1,363, OR = 1.05 (95% CI, 0.94 to 1.18)); or 2007/08 (n = 1,662, OR = 1.06 (95% CI, 0.91 to 1.23)). Similar patterns of associations between BPA and continuous HbA1c were also observed.
Although higher urinary BPA was associated with elevated HbA1c and T2DM in the pooled analysis, it was driven by data from only one NHANES cycle. Additional studies, especially of a longitudinal design with repeated BPA measurements, are needed to further elucidate the association between BPA and T2DM.
PMCID: PMC3202589  PMID: 22046388
19.  Long-Term Exposure to Airborne Particles and Arterial Stiffness: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2011;119(6):844-851.
Increased arterial stiffness could represent an intermediate subclinical outcome in the mechanistic pathway underlying associations between average long-term pollution exposure and cardiovascular events.
We hypothesized that 20 years of exposure to particulate matter (PM) ≤ 2.5 and 10 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5 and PM10, respectively) would be positively associated with arterial stiffness in 3,996 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) who were seen at six U.S. study sites.
We assigned pollution exposure during two decades preceding a clinical exam (2000–2002) using observed PM10 from monitors nearest participants’ residences and PM10 and PM2.5 imputed from a space-time model. We examined three log-transformed arterial stiffness outcome measures: Young’s modulus (YM) from carotid artery ultrasound and large (C1) and small (C2) artery vessel compliance from the radial artery pulse wave. All associations are expressed per 10 μg/m3 increment in PM and were adjusted for weather, age, sex, race, glucose, triglycerides, diabetes, waist:hip ratio, seated mean arterial pressure, smoking status, pack-years, cigarettes per day, environmental tobacco smoke, and physical activity. C1 and C2 models were further adjusted for heart rate, weight, and height.
Long-term average particle exposure was not associated with greater arterial stiffness measured by YM, C1, or C2, and the few associations observed were not robust across metrics and adjustment schemes.
Long-term particle mass exposure did not appear to be associated with greater arterial stiffness in this study sample.
PMCID: PMC3114821  PMID: 21245016
air pollution; arterial stiffness; environmental air pollutants; epidemiology
20.  Air Pollution and the Microvasculature: A Cross-Sectional Assessment of In Vivo Retinal Images in the Population-Based Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(11):e1000372.
Sara Adar and colleagues show that residing in locations with higher air pollution concentrations and experiencing daily increases in air pollution are associated with narrower retinal arteriolar diameters in older individuals, thus providing a link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease.
Long- and short-term exposures to air pollution, especially fine particulate matter (PM2.5), have been linked to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. One hypothesized mechanism for these associations involves microvascular effects. Retinal photography provides a novel, in vivo approach to examine the association of air pollution with changes in the human microvasculature.
Methods and Findings
Chronic and acute associations between residential air pollution concentrations and retinal vessel diameters, expressed as central retinal arteriolar equivalents (CRAE) and central retinal venular equivalents (CRVE), were examined using digital retinal images taken in Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) participants between 2002 and 2003. Study participants (46 to 87 years of age) were without clinical cardiovascular disease at the baseline examination (2000–2002). Long-term outdoor concentrations of PM2.5 were estimated at each participant's home for the 2 years preceding the clinical exam using a spatio-temporal model. Short-term concentrations were assigned using outdoor measurements on the day preceding the clinical exam. Residential proximity to roadways was also used as an indicator of long-term traffic exposures. All associations were examined using linear regression models adjusted for subject-specific age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, income, smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, body mass index, family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes status, serum cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, emphysema, C-reactive protein, medication use, and fellow vessel diameter. Short-term associations were further controlled for weather and seasonality. Among the 4,607 participants with complete data, CRAE were found to be narrower among persons residing in regions with increased long- and short-term levels of PM2.5. These relationships were observed in a joint exposure model with −0.8 µm (95% confidence interval [CI] −1.1 to −0.5) and −0.4 µm (95% CI −0.8 to 0.1) decreases in CRAE per interquartile increases in long- (3 µg/m3) and short-term (9 µg/m3) PM2.5 levels, respectively. These reductions in CRAE are equivalent to 7- and 3-year increases in age in the same cohort. Similarly, living near a major road was also associated with a −0.7 µm decrease (95% CI −1.4 to 0.1) in CRAE. Although the chronic association with CRAE was largely influenced by differences in exposure between cities, this relationship was generally robust to control for city-level covariates and no significant differences were observed between cities. Wider CRVE were associated with living in areas of higher PM2.5 concentrations, but these findings were less robust and not supported by the presence of consistent acute associations with PM2.5.
Residing in regions with higher air pollution concentrations and experiencing daily increases in air pollution were each associated with narrower retinal arteriolar diameters in older individuals. These findings support the hypothesis that important vascular phenomena are associated with small increases in short-term or long-term air pollution exposures, even at current exposure levels, and further corroborate reported associations between air pollution and the development and exacerbation of clinical cardiovascular disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Cardiovascular disease (CVD)—disease that affects the heart and/or the blood vessels—is a common cause of illness and death among adults in developed countries. In the United States, for example, the leading cause of death is coronary heart disease, a CVD in which narrowing of the heart's arteries by atherosclerotic plaques (fatty deposits that build up with age) slows the blood supply to the heart and may eventually cause a heart attack (myocardial infarction). Other types of CVD include stroke (in which atherosclerotic plaques interrupt the brain's blood supply) and peripheral arterial disease (in which the blood supply to the limbs is blocked). Smoking, high blood pressure, high blood levels of cholesterol (a type of fat), having diabetes, being overweight, and being physically inactive all increase a person's risk of developing CVD. Treatments for CVD include lifestyle changes and taking drugs that lower blood pressure or blood cholesterol levels.
Why Was This Study Done?
Another risk factor for CVD is exposure to long-term and/or short-term air pollution. Fine particle pollution or PM2.5 is particularly strongly associated with an increased risk of CVD. PM2.5—particulate matter 2.5 µm in diameter or 1/30th the diameter of a human hair—is mainly produced by motor vehicles, power plants, and other combustion sources. Why PM2.5 increases CVD risk is not clear but one possibility is that it alters the body's microvasculature (fine blood vessels known as capillaries, arterioles, and venules), thereby impairing the blood flow through the heart and brain. In this study, the researchers use noninvasive digital retinal photography to investigate whether there is an association between air pollution and changes in the human microvasculature. The retina—a light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye that converts images into electrical messages and sends them to the brain—has a dense microvasculature. Retinal photography is used to check the retinal microvasculature for signs of potentially blinding eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy. Previous studies have found that narrower than normal retinal arterioles and wider than normal retinal venules are associated with CVD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used digital retinal photography to measure the diameters of retinal blood vessels in the participants of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). This study is investigating CVD progression in people aged 45–84 years of various ethnic backgrounds who had no CVD symptoms when they enrolled in the study in 2000–2002. The researchers modeled the long-term outdoor concentration of PM2.5 at each participant's house for the 2-year period preceding the retinal examination (which was done between 2002 and 2003) using data on PM2.5 levels collected by regulatory monitoring stations as well as study-specific air samples collected outside of the homes and in the communities of study participants. Outdoor PM2.5 measurements taken the day before the examination provided short-term PM2.5 levels. Among the 4,607 MESA participants who had complete data, retinal arteriolar diameters were narrowed among those who lived in regions with increased long- and short-term PM2.5 levels. Specifically, an increase in long-term PM2.5 concentrations of 3 µg/m3 was associated with a 0.8 µm decrease in arteriolar diameter, a reduction equivalent to that seen for a 7-year increase in age in this group of people. Living near a major road, another indicator of long-term exposure to PM2.5 pollution, was also associated with narrowed arterioles. Finally, increased retinal venular diameters were weakly associated with long-term high PM2.5 concentrations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that living in areas with long-term air pollution or being exposed to short-term air pollution is associated with narrowing of the retinal arterioles in older individuals. They also show that widening of retinal venules is associated with long-term (but not short-term) PM2.5 pollution. Together, these findings support the hypothesis that long- and short-term air pollution increases CVD risk through effects on the microvasculature. However, they do not prove that PM2.5 is the constituent of air pollution that drives microvascular changes—these findings could reflect the toxicity of another pollutant or the pollution mixture as a whole. Importantly, these findings show that microvascular changes can occur at the PM2.5 levels that commonly occur in developed countries, which are well below those seen in developing countries. Worryingly, they also suggest that the deleterious cardiovascular effects of air pollution could occur at levels below existing regulatory standards.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000372.
The American Heart Association provides information for patients and caregivers on all aspects of cardiovascular disease (in several languages), including information on air pollution, heart disease, and stroke
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on heart disease and on stroke
Information is available from the British Heart Foundation on cardiovascular disease
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients and caregivers about cardiovascular disease
MedlinePlus provides links to other sources of information on heart disease and on vascular disease (in English and Spanish)
The AIRNow site provides information about US air quality and about air pollution and health
The Air Quality Archive has up-to-date information about air pollution in the UK and information about the health effects of air pollution
The US Environmental Protection Agency has information on PM2.5
The following Web sites contain information available on the MESA and MESA Air studies
PMCID: PMC2994677  PMID: 21152417
21.  Preventing heat-related morbidity and mortality: New approaches in a changing climate 
Maturitas  2009;64(2):98-103.
Due to global climate change, the world will, on average, experience a higher number of heat waves, and the intensity and length of these heat waves is projected to increase. Knowledge about the implications of heat exposure to human health is growing, with excess mortality and illness occurring during hot weather in diverse regions. Certain groups, including the elderly, the urban poor, and those with chronic health conditions, are at higher risk. Preventive actions include: establishing heat wave warning systems; making cool environments available (through air conditioning or other means); public education; planting trees and other vegetation; and modifying the built environment to provide proper ventilation and use materials and colors that reduce heat build-up and optimize thermal comfort. However, to inspire local prevention activities, easily understood information about the strategies' benefits needs to be incorporated into decision tools. Integrating heat health information into a comprehensive adaptation planning process can alert local decision-makers to extreme heat risks and provide information necessary to choose strategies that yield the largest health improvements and cost savings. Tools to enable this include web-based programs that illustrate effective methods for including heat health in comprehensive local-level adaptation planning; calculate costs and benefits of several activities; maps showing zones of high potential heat exposure and vulnerable populations in a local area; and public awareness materials and training for implementing preventive activities. A new computer-based decision tool will enable local estimates of heat-related health effects and potential savings from implementing a range of prevention strategies.
PMCID: PMC2793324  PMID: 19748195
Global climate; health effects; temperature; vulnerability; adaptation
22.  Particulate Air Pollution, Metabolic Syndrome, and Heart Rate Variability: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2010;118(10):1406-1411.
Cardiac autonomic dysfunction has been suggested as a possible biologic pathway for the association between fine particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5) and cardiovascular disease (CVD). We examined the associations of PM2.5 with heart rate variability, a marker of autonomic function, and whether metabolic syndrome (MetS) modified these associations.
We used data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis to measure the standard deviation of normal-to-normal intervals (SDNN) and the root mean square of successive differences (rMSSD) of 5,465 participants 45–84 years old who were free of CVD at the baseline examination (2000–2002). Data from the U.S. regulatory monitor network were used to estimate ambient PM2.5 concentrations at the participants’ residences. MetS was defined as having three or more of the following criteria: abdominal obesity, hypertriglyceridemia, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high fasting glucose.
After controlling for confounders, we found that an interquartile range (IQR) increase in 2-day average PM2.5 (10.2 μg/m3) was associated with a 2.1% decrease in rMSSD [95% confidence interval (CI), −4.2 to 0.0] and nonsignificantly associated with a 1.8% decrease in SDNN (95% CI, −3.7 to 0.1). Associations were stronger among individuals with MetS than among those without MetS: an IQR elevation in 2-day PM2.5 was associated with a 6.2% decrease in rMSSD (95% CI, −9.4 to −2.9) among participants with MetS, whereas almost no change was found among participants without MetS (p-interaction = 0.005). Similar effect modification was observed in SDNN (p-interaction = 0.011).
These findings suggest that autonomic dysfunction may be a mechanism through which PM exposure affects cardiovascular risk, especially among persons with MetS.
PMCID: PMC2957920  PMID: 20529761
air pollution; autonomic nervous system; heart rate variability; metabolic syndrome; PM2.5
23.  Mapping Community Determinants of Heat Vulnerability 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2009;117(11):1730-1736.
The evidence that heat waves can result in both increased deaths and illness is substantial, and concern over this issue is rising because of climate change. Adverse health impacts from heat waves can be avoided, and epidemiologic studies have identified specific population and community characteristics that mark vulnerability to heat waves.
We situated vulnerability to heat in geographic space and identified potential areas for intervention and further research.
We mapped and analyzed 10 vulnerability factors for heat-related morbidity/mortality in the United States: six demographic characteristics and two household air conditioning variables from the U.S. Census Bureau, vegetation cover from satellite images, and diabetes prevalence from a national survey. We performed a factor analysis of these 10 variables and assigned values of increasing vulnerability for the four resulting factors to each of 39,794 census tracts. We added the four factor scores to obtain a cumulative heat vulnerability index value.
Four factors explained > 75% of the total variance in the original 10 vulnerability variables: a) social/environmental vulnerability (combined education/poverty/race/green space), b) social isolation, c) air conditioning prevalence, and d) proportion elderly/diabetes. We found substantial spatial variability of heat vulnerability nationally, with generally higher vulnerability in the Northeast and Pacific Coast and the lowest in the Southeast. In urban areas, inner cities showed the highest vulnerability to heat.
These methods provide a template for making local and regional heat vulnerability maps. After validation using health outcome data, interventions can be targeted at the most vulnerable populations.
PMCID: PMC2801183  PMID: 20049125
climate; environmental health; geographic information systems; heat; public health; vulnerable populations
24.  Vulnerability to heat-related mortality in Latin America: a case-crossover study in São Paulo, Brazil, Santiago, Chile and Mexico City, Mexico 
Background Factors affecting vulnerability to heat-related mortality are not well understood. Identifying susceptible populations is of particular importance given anticipated rising temperatures from climatic change.
Methods We investigated heat-related mortality for three Latin American cities (Mexico City, Mexico; São Paulo, Brazil; Santiago, Chile) using a case-crossover approach for 754 291 deaths from 1998 to 2002. We considered lagged exposures, confounding by air pollution, cause of death and susceptibilities by educational attainment, age and sex.
Results Same and previous day apparent temperature were most strongly associated with mortality risk. Effect estimates remained positive though lowered after adjustment for ozone or PM10. Susceptibility increased with age in all cities. The increase in mortality risk for those ≥65 comparing the 95th and 75th percentiles of same-day apparent temperature was 2.69% (95% CI: −2.06 to 7.88%) for Santiago, 6.51% (95% CI: 3.57–9.52%) for São Paulo and 3.22% (95% CI: 0.93–5.57%) for Mexico City. Patterns of vulnerability by education and sex differed across communities. Effect estimates were higher for women than men in Mexico City, and higher for men elsewhere, although results by sex were not appreciably different for any city. In São Paulo, those with less education were more susceptible, whereas no distinct patterns by education were observed in the other cities.
Conclusions Elevated temperatures are associated with mortality risk in these Latin American cities, with the strongest associations in São Paulo, the hottest city. The elderly are an important population for targeted prevention measures, but vulnerability by sex and education differed by city.
PMCID: PMC2734062  PMID: 18511489
Brazil; cause of death; Chile; education; heat; Latin America; Mexico; mortality; sex; socioeconomic status; temperature
25.  Traffic-related Particles Are Associated with Elevated Homocysteine 
Rationale: Recent epidemiologic studies have shown that homocysteine, a sulfur-containing amino acid formed during the metabolism of methionine, is a risk factor for atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, and thrombosis. Particulate air pollution has been related to cardiovascular death and hospital admission, but the underlying mechanisms are not fully elucidated.
Objectives: We examined the associations between ambient particulate air pollution and plasma concentrations of homocysteine among 960 community-residing older men (mean age, 73.6 ± 6.9 yr).
Methods: Total homocysteine in plasma, measured using high-performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection, was regressed on each ambient particulate pollutant (black carbon, organic carbon, sulfate or PM2.5), and effect modification by plasma and dietary B vitamins (folate, B6, and B12) was examined.
Measurements and Main Results: The median concentration of total homocysteine was 10.6 μmol/L. Statistically significant positive associations of total homocysteine were observed with traffic-related particles (black carbon and organic carbon). No association was observed with sulfate, an indicator of coal combustion particles, or PM2.5 (particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter). The effects of black carbon and organic carbon were more pronounced in persons with low concentrations of plasma folate and vitamin B12.
Conclusions: Exposures to ambient particles, particularly from traffic, are associated with elevated plasma total homocysteine. Homocysteine may be a component or biological marker of the oxidation pathways underlying the effect of ambient particles on the cardiovascular system.
PMCID: PMC2542426  PMID: 18467508
air pollution; folate; homocysteine; traffic particles; vitamin B12

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