Acute Effects of Air Pollution and Noise from Road Traffic in a Panel of Young Healthy Adults

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Mar 4;16(5):788. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16050788.


Panel studies are an efficient means to assess short-term effects of air pollution and other time-varying environmental exposures. Repeated examinations of volunteers allow for an in-depth analysis of physiological responses supporting the biological interpretation of environmental impacts. Twenty-four healthy students walked for 1 h at a minimum of four separate occasions under each of the following four settings: along a busy road, along a busy road wearing ear plugs, in a park, and in a park but exposed to traffic noise (65 dB) through headphones. Particle mass (PM2.5, PM₁), particle number, and noise levels were measured throughout each walk. Lung function and exhaled nitrogen oxide (NO) were measured before, immediately after, 1 h after, and approximately 24 h after each walk. Blood pressure and heart rate variability were measured every 15 min during each walk. Recorded air pollution levels were found to correlate with reduced lung function. The effects were clearly significant for end-expiratory flows and remained visible up to 24 h after exposure. While immediate increases in airway resistance could be interpreted as protective (muscular) responses to particulate air pollution, the persisting effects indicate an induced inflammatory reaction. Noise levels reduced systolic blood pressure and heart rate variability. Maybe due to the small sample size, no effects were visible per specific setting (road vs. park).

Keywords: air pollution; healthy young adults; noise; panel study; physiological effects; road traffic.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution / analysis
  • Blood Pressure
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiology
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Walking
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Nitric Oxide