The relationship between air pollutants and heart-rate variability among community residents in Korea

Inhal Toxicol. 2008 Feb;20(4):435-44. doi: 10.1080/08958370801903834.


Air pollution, both particulate and gaseous, is known to cause adverse health effects and is associated with increased cardiovascular mortality and morbidity. With a growing recognition in the importance of the autonomic nervous system in air pollution, we examined the effects of air pollutants, namely, particulate matter (PM10), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitric dioxide (NO2), on cardiac autonomic function by measuring heart-rate variability (HRV) among community residents. This study was conducted at Taein Island, located off the southern coast of South Korea; 1349 subjects (596 males and 753 females) were included in this analysis. Subjects responded to the interview about general characteristics and an HRV examination was conducted. Exposure data were collected from the Environmental Management Corporation during the same period of HRV measurement. Linear regression analyses were carried out to evaluate the association over 72 h, and the parameters of HRV indices were presented as the percentage change. The exposures to PM(10), SO(2), and NO2 were associated with reduced HRV indices, and significant decreases in the standard deviation of the normal to normal interval (SDNN) and low frequency (LF) domain effect, and the effect was largely continued until 12 h. Our results suggest that air pollutants stimulate the autonomic nervous system and provoke an imbalance in cardiac autonomic control. Thus, these subclinical effects may lead to pathological consequences, particularly in high-risk patients and susceptible subjects.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Heart / drug effects
  • Heart / innervation
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Korea
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*
  • Population Surveillance*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter