Urban particulate matter air pollution is associated with subclinical atherosclerosis: results from the HNR (Heinz Nixdorf Recall) study

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010 Nov 23;56(22):1803-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2010.04.065.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate the association of long-term residential exposure to fine particles with carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT).

Background: Experimental and epidemiological evidence suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution might have a causal role in atherogenesis, but epidemiological findings are still inconsistent. We investigate whether urban particulate matter (PM) air pollution is associated with CIMT, a marker of subclinical atherosclerosis.

Methods: We used baseline data (2000 to 2003) from the HNR (Heinz Nixdorf Recall) study, a population-based cohort of 4,814 participants, 45 to 75 years of age. We assessed residential long-term exposure to PM with a chemistry transport model and measured distance to high traffic. Multiple linear regression was used to estimate associations of air pollutants and traffic with CIMT, adjusting for each other, city of residence, age, sex, diabetes, and lifestyle variables.

Results: Median CIMT of the 3,380 analyzed participants was 0.66 mm (interquartile range 0.16 mm). An interdecile range increase in PM(2.5) (4.2 μg/m(3)), PM(10) (6.7 μg/m(3)), and distance to high traffic (1,939 m) was associated with a 4.3% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.9% to 6.7%), 1.7% (95% CI: -0.7% to 4.1%), and 1.2% (95% CI: -0.2% to 2.6%) increase in CIMT, respectively.

Conclusions: Our study shows a clear association of long-term exposure to PM(2.5) with atherosclerosis. This finding strengthens the hypothesized role of PM(2.5) as a risk factor for atherogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Atherosclerosis / etiology*
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology
  • Carotid Arteries / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tunica Intima / pathology
  • Tunica Media / pathology
  • Urban Health


  • Particulate Matter