Association of PNC, BC, and PM2.5 Measured at a Central Monitoring Site With Blood Pressure in a Predominantly Near Highway Population

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Mar 3;12(3):2765-80. doi: 10.3390/ijerph120302765.


Elevated blood pressure is an indicator of cardiovascular stress and increased risk of cardiovascular-related morbidity and mortality. There is emerging evidence suggesting air pollutants, including particulate matter (PM), could promote hypertension, thereby increasing cardiovascular disease risk. Repeated measurement analyses were conducted to examine the associations of three types of PM with systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and pulse pressure (PP) in 220 participants, (mean age=58.5 years) from the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health study (CAFEH), most of whom live near a major highway. Ambient levels of air pollutants including particle number concentration (PNC; a measure of ultrafine particle (UFP) concentration), fine PM (PM2.5, Particle diameter<2.5 µm), and black carbon (BC) were measured at a central site<7 km from the study areas. Central sites are good at capturing short-term temporal trends in pollution associated with meteorological changes over regional areas. Linear mixed-effect models that accounted for repeated measures within one person were used to examine the associations between blood pressure variables and daily average of ambient PNC, PM2.5, or BC, controlling for demographic characteristics and major confounders including temperature. Our PNC model predicted that a higher PNC of 10,000 particles/cm3 was associated with higher DBP of 2.40 mmHg (p=0.03), independent of other factors in the model. There were no significant associations for PM2.5 or BC. Post hoc subgroup analyses by obesity status showed that positive associations of DBP with PNC were more pronounced among obese individuals than non-obese individuals. These results suggested that PNC levels are associated with increased blood pressure, which may contribute to cardiovascular disease risk. More research is needed to assess the relationship between PNC and blood pressure and to address possible residual confounding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Public Health
  • Risk
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Vehicle Emissions