Associations of short-term particle and noise exposures with markers of cardiovascular and respiratory health among highway maintenance workers

Environ Health Perspect. 2014 Jul;122(7):726-32. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1307100. Epub 2014 Mar 19.


Background: Highway maintenance workers are constantly and simultaneously exposed to traffic-related particle and noise emissions, both of which have been linked to increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in population-based epidemiology studies.

Objectives: We aimed to investigate short-term health effects related to particle and noise exposure.

Methods: We monitored 18 maintenance workers, during as many as five 24-hr periods from a total of 50 observation days. We measured their exposure to fine particulate matter (diameter ≤ 2.5 μm; PM2.5), ultrafine particles, and noise, and the cardiopulmonary health end points: blood pressure, proinflammatory and prothrombotic markers in the blood, lung function, and fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) measured approximately 15 hr after work. Heart rate variability was assessed during a sleep period approximately 10 hr after work.

Results: PM2.5 exposure was significantly associated with C-reactive protein and serum amyloid A, and was negatively associated with tumor necrosis factor α. None of the particle metrics were significantly associated with von Willebrand factor or tissue factor expression. PM2.5 and work noise were associated with markers of increased heart rate variability, and with increased high-frequency and low-frequency power. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure on the following morning were significantly associated with noise exposure after work, and nonsignificantly associated with PM2.5. We observed no significant associations between any of the exposures and lung function or FeNO.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that exposure to particles and noise during highway maintenance work might pose a cardiovascular health risk. Actions to reduce these exposures could lead to better health for this population of workers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Blood Pressure
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity*
  • Switzerland
  • Time Factors


  • Air Pollutants
  • Biomarkers
  • Particulate Matter