Exposure to airborne fine particulate matter is associated with impaired endothelial function and biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation

Environ Res. 2020 Jan:180:108890. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2019.108890. Epub 2019 Nov 5.


Epidemiological evidence suggests that exposure to air pollution is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, there is little direct evidence linking exposure to vascular dysfunction. We conducted a cross-sectional study of 100 participants, recruited from the University of Louisville Clinics. Endothelial function was assessed by calculating the reactive hyperemia index (RHI). Oxidative stress was indexed by measuring urinary levels of isoprostanes (n = 91). Inflammatory biomarkers were measured in the plasma (n = 80). Daily average PM2.5 levels were obtained from regional monitoring stations. Adjusted associations between PM2.5 levels and measured outcomes were tested using generalized linear models. The average age of participants was 48 years (44% male, 62% white); 52% had a diagnosis of hypertension, and 44% had type-2 diabetes. A 12.4% decrease in RHI was associated with 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 (95% CI: 21.0, -2.7). The F-2 isoprostane metabolite showed a positive association of 28.4% (95% CI: 2.7, 60.3) per 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5. Positive associations were observed with angiopoietin 1 (17.4%; 95% CI: 2.8, 33.8), vascular endothelial growth factor (10.4%; 95% CI: 0.6, 21.0), placental growth factor (31.7%; 95% CI: 12.2, 54.5), intracellular adhesion molecule-1 (24.6%; 95% CI: 1.6, 52.8), and matrix metalloproteinase-9 (30.3%; 95% CI: 8.0, 57.5) per 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5. Additionally, a 10 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 was associated with 15.9% decrease in vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (95% CI: 28.3, -1.3). These findings suggest that exposure to PM2.5 is associated with impaired vascular function, which may result from oxidative stress and inflammation, thereby leading to a pro-atherogenic state.

Keywords: Air pollution; Cytokines; Endothelial dysfunction; Isoprostanes; PM(2.5); Reactive hyperemia index.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants* / toxicity
  • Air Pollution*
  • Biomarkers
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Particulate Matter* / toxicity
  • Placenta Growth Factor
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A


  • Air Pollutants
  • Biomarkers
  • Particulate Matter
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Placenta Growth Factor