Longitudinal associations of long-term exposure to ultrafine particles with blood pressure and systemic inflammation in Puerto Rican adults

Environ Health. 2018 Apr 5;17(1):33. doi: 10.1186/s12940-018-0379-9.


Background: Few longitudinal studies have examined the association between ultrafine particulate matter (UFP, particles < 0.1 μm aerodynamic diameter) exposure and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. We used data from 791 adults participating in the longitudinal Boston Puerto Rican Health Study (Massachusetts, USA) between 2004 and 2015 to assess whether UFP exposure was associated with blood pressure and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP, a biomarker of systemic inflammation).

Methods: Residential annual average UFP exposure (measured as particle number concentration, PNC) was assigned using a model accounting for spatial and temporal trends. We also adjusted PNC values for participants' inhalation rate to obtain the particle inhalation rate (PIR) as a secondary exposure measure. Multilevel linear models with a random intercept for each participant were used to examine the association of UFP with blood pressure and hsCRP.

Results: Overall, in adjusted models, an inter-quartile range increase in PNC was associated with increased hsCRP (β = 6.8; 95% CI = - 0.3, 14.0%) but not with increased systolic blood pressure (β = 0.96; 95% CI = - 0.33, 2.25 mmHg), pulse pressure (β = 0.70; 95% CI = - 0.27, 1.67 mmHg), or diastolic blood pressure (β = 0.55; 95% CI = - 0.20, 1.30 mmHg). There were generally stronger positive associations among women and never smokers. Among men, there were inverse associations of PNC with systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure. In contrast to the primary findings, an inter-quartile range increase in the PIR was positively associated with systolic blood pressure (β = 1.03; 95% CI = 0.00, 2.06 mmHg) and diastolic blood pressure (β = 1.01; 95% CI = 0.36, 1.66 mmHg), but not with pulse pressure or hsCRP.

Conclusions: We observed that exposure to PNC was associated with increases in measures of CVD risk markers, especially among certain sub-populations. The exploratory PIR exposure metric should be further developed.

Keywords: Blood pressure; C-reactive protein; Exposure assessment; Hispanic; Susceptible populations; Ultrafine particulate matter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Inflammation / epidemiology*
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*
  • Prevalence
  • Puerto Rico / ethnology


  • Air Pollutants
  • Biomarkers
  • Particulate Matter
  • C-Reactive Protein