Synthesis of Harvard Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Center studies on traffic-related particulate pollution and cardiovascular outcomes in the Greater Boston Area

The association between particulate pollution and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality is well established. While the cardiovascular effects of nationally regulated criteria pollutants (e.g., fine particulate matter [PM2.5] and nitrogen dioxide) have been well documented, there are fewer studies on particulate pollutants that are more specific for traffic, such as black carbon (BC) and particle number (PN). In this paper, we synthesized studies conducted in the Greater Boston Area on cardiovascular health effects of traffic exposure, specifically defined by BC or PN exposure or proximity to major roadways. Large cohort studies demonstrate that exposure to traffic-related particles adversely affect cardiac autonomic function, increase systemic cytokine-mediated inflammation and pro-thrombotic activity, and elevate the risk of hypertension and ischemic stroke. Key patterns emerged when directly comparing studies with overlapping exposure metrics and population cohorts. Most notably, cardiovascular risk estimates of PN and BC exposures were larger in magnitude or more often statistically significant compared to those of PM2.5 exposures. Across multiple exposure metrics (e.g., short-term vs. long-term; observed vs. modeled) and different population cohorts (e.g., elderly, individuals with co-morbidities, young healthy individuals), there is compelling evidence that BC and PN represent traffic-related particles that are especially harmful to cardiovascular health. Further research is needed to validate these findings in other geographic locations, characterize exposure errors associated with using monitored and modeled traffic pollutant levels, and elucidate pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the cardiovascular effects of traffic-related particulate pollutants. Implications: Traffic emissions are an important source of particles harmful to cardiovascular health. Traffic-related particles, specifically BC and PN, adversely affect cardiac autonomic function, increase systemic inflammation and thrombotic activity, elevate BP, and increase the risk of ischemic stroke. There is evidence that BC and PN are associated with greater cardiovascular risk compared to PM2.5. Further research is needed to elucidate other health effects of traffic-related particles and assess the feasibility of regulating BC and PN or their regional and local sources.

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    • © 2019 A&WMA.
  • Authors:
    • Jhun, Iny
    • Kim, Jina
    • Cho, Bennet
    • Gold, Diane R
    • Schwartz, Joel
    • Coull, Brent A
    • Zanobetti, Antonella
    • Rice, Mary B
    • Mittleman, Murray A
    • Garshick, Eric
    • Vokonas, Pantel
    • Bind, Marie-Abele
    • Wilker, Elissa H
    • Dominici, Francesca
    • Suh, Helen
    • Koutrakis, Petros
  • Publication Date: 2019-8


  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01715477
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 24 2019 3:01PM