Recent epidemiological evidence connects ambient air pollutants to adverse neurobehavioural effects in adults. In animal models, subchronic controlled exposures to diesel exhaust (DE) have also showed evidence of neuroinflammation. Evidence suggests that DE not only affects outcomes commonly associated with cognitive dysfunction, but also balance impairment. We conducted a controlled human exposure experiment with 28 healthy subjects (average age = 28 years (SD = 7.1; range = 21-49); and 40% female) who were exposed to two conditions, filtered air (FA) and DE (300 μg PM2.5/m3) for 120 min, in a double-blinded crossover study with randomized exposures separated by four weeks. Postural stability was assessed by the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS), a brief, easily-administered test of static balance. The BESS consists of a sequence of three stances performed on two surfaces. With hands on hips and eyes closed, each stance is held for 20 s. "Error" points are awarded for deviations from those stances. Pre- and immediately post-exposure BESS "error" point totals were calculated and the difference between the two timepoints were compared for each of the two exposure conditions. A mixed effect model assessed the significance of the association. While our data demonstrates a trend of reduced postural stability in response to exposure to DE, exposure was not significantly associated with BESS value. This is the first study to investigate changes in postural stability as a result of exposure to DE in human subjects.
Keywords: Air pollution; Balance; Bess; Crossover design; Diesel exhaust; Exposure; Postural stability; Traffic.