Long-term effects of elemental composition of particulate matter on inflammatory blood markers in European cohorts

Environ Int. 2015 Sep;82:76-84. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2015.05.008. Epub 2015 Jun 9.


Background: Epidemiological studies have associated long-term exposure to ambient particulate matter with increased mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory disorders. Systemic inflammation is a plausible biological mechanism behind this association. However, it is unclear how the chemical composition of PM affects inflammatory responses.

Objectives: To investigate the association between long-term exposure to elemental components of PM and the inflammatory blood markers high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) and fibrinogen as part of the European ESCAPE and TRANSPHORM multi-center projects.

Methods: In total, 21,558 hsCRP measurements and 17,428 fibrinogen measurements from cross-sections of five and four cohort studies were available, respectively. Residential long-term concentrations of particulate matter <10μm (PM10) and <2.5μm (PM2.5) in diameter and selected elemental components (copper, iron, potassium, nickel, sulfur, silicon, vanadium, zinc) were estimated based on land-use regression models. Associations between components and inflammatory markers were estimated using linear regression models for each cohort separately. Cohort-specific results were combined using random effects meta-analysis. As a sensitivity analysis the models were additionally adjusted for PM mass.

Results: A 5ng/m(3) increase in PM2.5 copper and a 500ng/m(3) increase in PM10 iron were associated with a 6.3% [0.7; 12.3%] and 3.6% [0.3; 7.1%] increase in hsCRP, respectively. These associations between components and fibrinogen were slightly weaker. A 10ng/m(3) increase in PM2.5 zinc was associated with a 1.2% [0.1; 2.4%] increase in fibrinogen; confidence intervals widened when additionally adjusting for PM2.5.

Conclusions: Long-term exposure to transition metals within ambient particulate matter, originating from traffic and industry, may be related to chronic systemic inflammation providing a link to long-term health effects of particulate matter.

Keywords: ESCAPE; Elemental components; Inflammation; Long-term exposure; Particulate matter; TRANSPHORM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cohort Studies
  • Copper / analysis
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Fibrinogen / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Iron
  • Linear Models
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nickel
  • Particulate Matter / chemistry*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases
  • Sulfur / analysis
  • Time
  • Vanadium / analysis
  • Zinc / analysis


  • Biomarkers
  • Particulate Matter
  • Vanadium
  • Sulfur
  • Copper
  • Nickel
  • Fibrinogen
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Iron
  • Zinc