Background: Cycling and other forms of active transportation provide health benefits via increased physical activity. However, direct evidence of the extent to which these benefits may be offset by exposure and intake of traffic-related air pollution is limited. The purpose of this study is to measure changes in endothelial function, measures of oxidative stress and inflammation, and lung function in healthy participants before and after cycling along a high- and low- traffic route.
Methods: Participants (n = 38) bicycled for 1 h along a Downtown and a Residential designated bicycle route in a randomized crossover trial. Heart rate, power output, particulate matter air pollution (PM10, PM2.5, and PM1) and particle number concentration (PNC) were measured. Lung function, endothelial function (reactive hyperemia index, RHI), C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine were assessed within one hour pre- and post-trial.
Results: Geometric mean PNC exposures and intakes were higher along the Downtown (exposure = 16,226 particles/cm3; intake = 4.54 × 1010 particles) compared to the Residential route (exposure = 9367 particles/cm3; intake = 3.13 × 1010 particles). RHI decreased following cycling along the Downtown route and increased on the Residential route; in mixed linear regression models, the (post-pre) change in RHI was 21% lower following cycling on the Downtown versus the Residential route (-0.43, 95% CI: -0.79, -0.079) but RHI decreases were not associated with measured exposure or intake of air pollutants. The differences in RHI by route were larger amongst females and older participants. No consistent associations were observed for any of the other outcome measures.
Conclusions: Although PNC exposures and intakes were higher along the Downtown route, the lack of association between air pollutant exposure or intake with RHI and other measures suggests other exposures related to cycling on the Downtown route may have been influential in the observed differences between routes in RHI.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01708356 . Registered 16 October 2012.
Keywords: Air pollution; Cycling; Endothelial function; Inflammation; Lung function; Oxidative stress; Particulate matter.