Associations between recent exposure to ambient fine particulate matter and blood pressure in the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)

Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Apr;116(4):486-91. doi: 10.1289/ehp.10899.


Background: Blood pressure (BP) may be implicated in associations observed between ambient particulate matter and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. This study examined cross-sectional associations between short-term ambient fine particles (particulate matter <or= 2.5 microm in aerodynamic diameter; PM(2.5)) and BP: systolic (SBP), diastolic (DBP), mean arterial (MAP), and pulse pressure (PP).

Methods: The study sample included 5,112 persons 45-84 years of age, free of cardiovascular disease at the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis baseline examination (2000-2002). Data from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency monitors were used to estimate ambient PM(2.5) exposures for the preceding 1, 2, 7, 30, and 60 days. Roadway data were used to estimate local exposures to traffic-related particles.

Results: Results from linear regression found PP and SBP positively associated with PM(2.5). For example, a 10-microg/m(3) increase in PM(2.5) 30-day mean was associated with 1.12 mmHg higher pulse pressure [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.28-1.97] and 0.99 mmHg higher systolic BP (95% CI, -0.15 to 2.13), adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, income, education, body mass index, diabetes, cigarette smoking and environmental tobacco smoke, alcohol use, physical activity, medications, atmospheric pressure, and temperature. Results were much weaker and not statistically significant for MAP and DBP. Although traffic-related variables were not themselves associated with BP, the association between PM(2.5) and BP was stronger in the presence of higher traffic exposure.

Conclusions: Higher SBP and PP were associated with ambient levels of PM(2.5) and the association was stronger in the presence of roadway traffic, suggesting that impairment of blood pressure regulation may play a role in response to air pollution.

Keywords: air pollution; blood pressure; cardiovascular disease; epidemiology; particulate matter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology
  • Atherosclerosis / etiology*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity*
  • Racial Groups


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter