Inflammatory markers and particulate air pollution: characterizing the pathway to disease

Int J Epidemiol. 2006 Oct;35(5):1347-54. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyl132. Epub 2006 Jul 14.


Background: Increased concentrations of particles in air have been related to changes in inflammatory markers that in turn are hypothesized in mediating the particle effects on cardiovascular disease. The present work examined this association in an elderly cohort in the Greater Boston area and addresses the relative role of particles from different sources.

Methods: The study included 710 subjects, active members of the VA Normative Aging Study cohort with measurements of blood markers. Concentrations of particle number (PN), black carbon (BC), fine particulate matter (PM(2.5)), and sulphates were measured at a central site near the examination site.

Results: Positive associations were found between traffic-related particles (PN and BC) and inflammatory markers, but only suggestive associations were found with exposures to PM(2.5) and sulphates. The particle effect on the inflammatory markers was greater among subjects older than 78 years and among obese. A suggestion for a greater effect of particles on inflammatory markers among GSTM1-null subjects and non-users of statin drugs was also seen.

Conclusions: The findings of the study support the hypothesis that particles can induce cardiovascular disease through inflammatory pathways, suggestive of a greater toxicity of traffic-related particles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Boston
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Biomarkers
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • C-Reactive Protein