Association of biomarkers of systemic inflammation with organic components and source tracers in quasi-ultrafine particles

Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Jun;118(6):756-62. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901407. Epub 2010 Feb 2.


Background: Evidence is needed regarding the air pollutant components and their sources responsible for associations between particle mass concentrations and human cardiovascular outcomes. We previously found associations between circulating biomarkers of inflammation and mass concentrations of quasi-ultrafine particles <or= 0.25 microm in aerodynamic diameter (PM0.25) in a panel cohort study of 60 elderly subjects with coronary artery disease living in the Los Angeles Basin.

Objectives: We reassessed biomarker associations with PM0.25 using new particle composition data.

Methods: Weekly biomarkers of inflammation were plasma interleukin-6 (IL-6) and soluble tumor necrosis factor-alpha receptor II (sTNF-RII) (n = 578). Exposures included indoor and outdoor community organic PM0.25 constituents [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), hopanes, n-alkanes, organic acids, water-soluble organic carbon, and transition metals]. We analyzed the relation between biomarkers and exposures with mixed-effects models adjusted for potential confounders.

Results: Indoor and outdoor PAHs (low-, medium-, and high-molecular-weight PAHs), followed by hopanes (vehicle emissions tracer), were positively associated with biomarkers, but other organic components and transition metals were not. sTNF-RII increased by 135 pg/mL [95% confidence interval (CI), 45-225 pg/mL], and IL-6 increased by 0.27 pg/mL (95% CI, 0.10-0.44 pg/mL) per interquartile range increase of 0.56 ng/m3 outdoor total PAHs. Two-pollutant models of PM0.25 with PAHs showed that nominal associations of IL-6 and sTNF-RII with PM0.25 mass were completely confounded by PAHs. Vehicular emission sources estimated from chemical mass balance models were strongly correlated with PAHs (R = 0.71).

Conclusions: Traffic emission sources of organic chemicals represented by PAHs are associated with increased systemic inflammation and explain associations with quasi-ultrafine particle mass.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / diagnosis*
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type II / blood
  • Triterpenes / analysis
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Biomarkers
  • Interleukin-6
  • Particulate Matter
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type II
  • Triterpenes
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • hopane