Long-term urban particulate air pollution, traffic noise, and arterial blood pressure

Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Dec;119(12):1706-11. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1103564. Epub 2011 Aug 9.


Background: Recent studies have shown an association of short-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM) with transient increases in blood pressure (BP), but it is unclear whether long-term exposure has an effect on arterial BP and hypertension.

Objectives: We investigated the cross-sectional association of residential long-term PM exposure with arterial BP and hypertension, taking short-term variations of PM and long-term road traffic noise exposure into account.

Methods: We used baseline data (2000-2003) on 4,291 participants, 45-75 years of age, from the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study, a population-based prospective cohort in Germany. Urban background exposure to PM with aerodynamic diameter ≤ 2.5 μm (PM(2.5)) and ≤ 10 μm (PM(10)) was assessed with a dispersion and chemistry transport model. We used generalized additive models, adjusting for short-term PM, meteorology, traffic proximity, and individual risk factors.

Results: An interquartile increase in PM2.5 (2.4 μg/m(3)) was associated with estimated increases in mean systolic and diastolic BP of 1.4 mmHg [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.5, 2.3] and 0.9 mmHg (95% CI: 0.4, 1.4), respectively. The observed relationship was independent of long-term exposure to road traffic noise and robust to the inclusion of many potential confounders. Residential proximity to high traffic and traffic noise exposure showed a tendency toward higher BP and an elevated prevalence of hypertension.

Conclusions: We found an association of long-term exposure to PM with increased arterial BP in a population-based sample. This finding supports our hypothesis that long-term PM exposure may promote atherosclerosis, with air-pollution-induced increases in BP being one possible biological pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Chemical
  • Models, Statistical
  • Noise, Transportation / adverse effects*
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*
  • Urban Health / statistics & numerical data*


  • Particulate Matter