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.