Traffic-related air pollution, biomarkers of metabolic dysfunction, oxidative stress, and CC16 in children

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2022 Jul;32(4):530-537. doi: 10.1038/s41370-021-00378-6. Epub 2021 Aug 20.


Background: Previous research has revealed links between air pollution exposure and metabolic syndrome in adults; however, these associations are less explored in children.

Objective: This study aims to investigate the association between traffic-related air pollutants (TRAP) and biomarkers of metabolic dysregulation, oxidative stress, and lung epithelial damage in children.

Methods: We conducted cross-sectional analyses in a sample of predominantly Latinx, low-income children (n = 218) to examine associations between air pollutants (nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), elemental carbon, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide (CO), fine particulates (PM2.5)) and biomarkers of metabolic function (high-density lipoprotein (HDL), hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), oxidative stress (8-isoprostane), and lung epithelial damage (club cell protein 16 (CC16)).

Results: HDL cholesterol showed an inverse association with NO2 and NOx, with the strongest relationship between HDL and 3-month exposure to NO2 (-15.4 mg/dL per IQR increase in 3-month NO2, 95% CI = -27.4, -3.4). 8-isoprostane showed a consistent pattern of increasing values with 1-day and 1-week exposure across all pollutants. Non-significant increases in % HbA1c were found during 1-month time frames and decreasing CC16 in 3-month exposure time frames.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that TRAP is significantly associated with decreased HDL cholesterol in longer-term time frames and elevated 8-isoprostane in shorter-term time frames. TRAP could have the potential to influence lifelong metabolic patterns, through metabolic effects in childhood.

Keywords: Early Life Childhood Exposure; Low-SES Populations; Metabolic Dysregulation; Oxidative Stress; Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons; Traffic-related Air Pollution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants* / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • Air Pollution* / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution* / analysis
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Child
  • Cholesterol, HDL / analysis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis
  • Humans
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Uteroglobin / analysis
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis


  • Air Pollutants
  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Particulate Matter
  • SCGB1A1 protein, human
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Uteroglobin
  • Nitrogen Dioxide