Background: Short-term controlled exposure to diesel exhaust (DE) in chamber studies have shown mixed results on lung and systemic effects. There is a paucity of studies on well-characterized real-life DE exposure in humans. In the present study, 29 healthy volunteers were exposed to DE while sitting as passengers in diesel-powered trains. Exposure in electric trains was used as control scenario. Each train scenario consisted of three consecutive days (6 h/day) ending with biomarker samplings.
Results: Combustion-derived air pollutants were considerably higher in the passenger carriages of diesel trains compared with electric trains. The concentrations of black carbon and ultrafine particles were 8.5 μg/m3 and 1.2-1.8 × 105 particles/cm3 higher, respectively, in diesel as compared to electric trains. Net increases of NOx and NO2 concentrations were 317 μg/m3 and 36 μg/m3. Exposure to DE was associated with reduced lung function and increased levels of DNA strand breaks in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), whereas there were unaltered levels of oxidatively damaged DNA, soluble cell adhesion molecules, acute phase proteins in blood and urinary excretion of metabolites of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Also the microvascular function was unaltered. An increase in the low frequency of heart rate variability measures was observed, whereas time-domain measures were unaltered.
Conclusion: Exposure to DE inside diesel-powered trains for 3 days was associated with reduced lung function and systemic effects in terms of altered heart rate variability and increased levels of DNA strand breaks in PBMCs compared with electric trains.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.Gov ( NCT03104387 ). Registered on March 23rd 2017.
Keywords: Cardiovascular function; Comet assay; DNA damage; Diesel exhaust; Lung function; Train exposure.