Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Telomere Length in Children and Adolescents Living in Fresno, CA: A Pilot Study

J Occup Environ Med. 2017 May;59(5):446-452. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000996.


Objective: The main objective of this pilot study was to gather preliminary information about how telomere length (TL) varies in relation to exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in children living in a highly polluted city.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of children living in Fresno, California (n = 14). Subjects with and without asthma were selected based on their annual average PAH level in the 12-months prior to their blood draw. We measured relative telomere length from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC).

Results: We found an inverse linear relationship between average PAH level and TL (R = 0.69), as well as between age and TL (R = 0.21). Asthmatics had shorter mean telomere length than non-asthmatics (TLasthmatic = 1.13, TLnon-asthmatic = 1.29).

Conclusions: These preliminary findings suggest that exposure to ambient PAH may play a role in telomere shortening.Become familiar with previous evidence suggesting that telomere length may be a biomarker of air pollution-induced cytotoxicity.Summarize the new findings on the association between polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) exposure and telomere length in adolescents, including those with asthma.Discuss the implications for recommendations and policies to mitigate the health and respiratory effects of traffic-related air pollution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • California
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Pilot Projects
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • Telomere Homeostasis / drug effects*
  • Telomere Shortening / drug effects*
  • Vehicle Emissions / toxicity*


  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Vehicle Emissions