Airway oxidative stress and inflammation markers in exhaled breath from children are linked with exposure to black carbon

Environ Int. 2014 Dec;73:440-6. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.06.017. Epub 2014 Sep 20.


Background: The current study aimed at assessing the associations between black carbon (BC) exposure and markers for airway inflammation and oxidative stress in primary school children in a Western European urban area.

Methods: In 130 children aged 6-12 years old, the fraction of exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO), exhaled breath condensate (EBC) pH, 8-isoprostane and interleukin (IL)-1β were measured in two seasons. BC concentrations on the sampling day (2-h average, 8:00-10:00 AM) and on the day before (24-h average) were assessed using measurements at a central monitoring site. Land use regression (LUR) models were applied to estimate weekly average BC exposure integrated for the time spent at home and at school, and seasonal average BC exposure at the home address. Associations between exposure and biomarkers were tested using linear mixed effect regression models. Next to single exposure models, models combining different BC exposure metrics were used.

Results: In single exposure models, an interquartile range (IQR) increase in 2-h BC (3.10 μg/m(3)) was linked with a 5.9% (95% CI: 0.1 to 12.0%) increase in 8-isoprostane. FeNO increased by 16.7% (95% CI: 2.2 to 33.2%) per IQR increase in 24-h average BC (4.50 μg/m(3)) and by 12.1% (95% CI: 2.5 to 22.8%) per IQR increase in weekly BC (1.73 μg/m(3)). IL-1β was associated with weekly and seasonal (IQR=1.70 μg/m(3)) BC with respective changes of 38.4% (95% CI: 9.0 to 75.4%) and 61.8% (95% CI: 3.5 to 153.9%) per IQR increase in BC. An IQR increase in weekly BC was linked with a lowering in EBC pH of 0.05 (95% CI: -0.10 to -0.01). All associations were observed independent of sex, age, allergy status, parental education level and meteorological conditions on the sampling day. Most of the associations remained when different BC exposure metrics were combined in multiple exposure models, after additional correction for sampling period or after exclusion of children with airway allergies. In additional analyses, FeNO was linked with 24-h PM10 levels, but the effect size was smaller than for BC. 8-Isoprostane was not linked with either 2-h or 24-h concentrations of PM2.5 or PM10.

Conclusion: BC exposure on the morning of sampling was associated with airway oxidative stress while 24-h and weekly exposures were linked with airway inflammation.

Keywords: Air pollution; Airway inflammation; Biomarkers; Children; Exhaled breath condensate; Land use regression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Child
  • Dinoprost / analogs & derivatives
  • Dinoprost / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Exhalation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / analysis
  • Interleukin-1beta / analysis
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / analysis
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Respiratory System / chemistry*
  • Soot / analysis
  • Soot / toxicity*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Biomarkers
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Particulate Matter
  • Soot
  • 8-epi-prostaglandin F2alpha
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Dinoprost