Repolarization changes induced by air pollution in ischemic heart disease patients

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Apr;113(4):440-6. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7579.


Epidemiologic studies report associations between particulate air pollution and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, but the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms are still unclear. We tested the hypothesis that patients with preexisting coronary heart disease experience changes in the repolarization parameters in association with rising concentrations of air pollution. A prospective panel study was conducted in Erfurt, East Germany, with 12 repeated electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings in 56 males with ischemic heart disease. Hourly particulate and gaseous air pollution and meteorologic data were acquired. The following ECG parameters reflecting myocardial substrate and vulnerability were measured: QT duration, T-wave amplitude, T-wave complexity, and variability of T-wave complexity. Fixed effect regression analysis was used adjusting for subject, trend, weekday, and meteorology. The analysis showed a significant increase in QT duration in response to exposure to organic carbon; a significant decrease in T-wave amplitude with exposure to ultrafine, accumulation mode, and PM2.5 particles (particles < 2.5 microm in aerodynamic diameter); and a corresponding significant increase of T-wave complexity in association with PM2.5 particles for the 24 hr before ECG recordings. Variability of T-wave complexity showed a significant increase with organic and elemental carbon in the same time interval. This study provides evidence suggesting an immediate effect of air pollution on repolarization duration, morphology, and variability representing myocardial substrate and vulnerability, key factors in the mechanisms of cardiac death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Carbon / analysis
  • Electrocardiography
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Ischemia / physiopathology*
  • Particle Size


  • Air Pollutants
  • Carbon