Blood pressure changes in association with black carbon exposure in a panel of healthy adults are independent of retinal microcirculation

Environ Int. 2015 Feb;75:81-6. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.11.006. Epub 2014 Nov 15.


Exposure to ambient particulate matter and elevated blood pressure are risk factors for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Microvascular changes might be an important pathway in explaining the association between air pollution and blood pressure. The objective of the study was to evaluate the role of the retinal microcirculation in the association between black carbon (BC) exposure and blood pressure. We estimated subchronic BC exposure based on 1-week personal measurements (μ-Aethalometer, AethLabs) in 55 healthy nurses. Blood pressure and retinal microvasculature were measured on four different days (range: 2-4) during this week. Subchronic BC exposure averaged (± SD) 1334±631ng/m(3) and ranged from 338ng/m(3) to 3889ng/m(3). An increased exposure of 631ng/m(3) BC was associated with a 2.77mmHg (95% CI: 0.39 to 5.15, p=0.027) increase in systolic blood pressure, a 2.35mmHg (95% CI: 0.52 to 4.19, p=0.016) increase in diastolic blood pressure and with 5.65μm (95% CI: 1.33 to 9.96, p=0.014) increase in central retinal venular equivalent. Mediation analysis failed to reveal an effect of retinal microvasculature in the association between blood pressure and subchronic BC exposure. In conclusion, we found a positive association between blood pressure and subchronic black carbon exposure in healthy adults. This finding adds evidence to the association between black carbon exposure and cardiovascular health effects, with elevated blood pressure as a plausible intermediate effector. Our results suggest that the changes in a person's blood pressure as a result of subchronic black carbon exposure operate independently of the retinal microcirculation.

Keywords: Air pollution; Black carbon; Blood pressure; Mediation analysis; Retinal microcirculation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Carbon / adverse effects
  • Carbon / classification*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microcirculation / drug effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Retinal Vessels / drug effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Soot / toxicity*
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Soot
  • Carbon