Health Effects of Real-World Exposure to Diesel Exhaust in Persons with Asthma

EPA Grant Number: R832347C138
Subproject: this is subproject number 138 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R832347
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Health Effects Institute (2005 — 2010)
Center Director: Greenbaum, Daniel S.
Title: Health Effects of Real-World Exposure to Diesel Exhaust in Persons with Asthma
Investigators: Zhang, Junfeng
Institution: University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey , Health Effects Institute
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: April 1, 2005 through March 31, 2010
RFA: Health Effects Institute (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Health Effects , Air Quality and Air Toxics , Air


In the 1990s, results from several epidemiologic and controlled-exposure studies suggested an association between exposure to air pollution from traffic-derived particulate matter (PM) and increases in symptoms of airway diseases, including exacerbations of asthma. Some results also suggested that exhaust from diesel engines, used in a large fraction of vehicles worldwide and particularly in Europe, contributed to these effects. Dr. Junfeng (Jim) Zhang of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, proposed a study that would investigate how inhaling air with a high concentration of diesel exhaust from vehicular traffic while walking on a street in Central London, United Kingdom, might affect people who had either mild or moderate asthma. Dr. Zhang and his colleagues hypothesized that this exposure would exacerbate asthma symptoms, decrease lung function, and induce lung inflammation and oxidative stress responses.


The investigators will recruit 60 nonsmoking participants of both sexes between 18 and 55 years old, with mild or moderate asthma. Each subject will participate in one 2-hour exposure session by walking along Oxford Street, a busy Central London thoroughfare where vehicles are predominantly diesel-powered, and one 2-hour session walking at a nearby control site, Hyde Park, where there is no traffic.

Before, during, and after each session, the investigators will evaluate pulmonary function parameters (forced expiratory volume in the first second [FEV1], forced vital capacity [FVC], and forced expiratory flow during the middle half of the FVC [FEF25–75]) and asthma symptoms. At some time points Zhang and colleagues will evaluate bronchial reactivity (PC20) and markers of airway inflammation and oxidative stress. Participants will be required to keep a record of asthma symptom scores, peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), and asthma reliever medication use during the 7 days before and after each session.

Expected Results:

Investigators anticipate that this proposed research will indicate that lung function is slightly decreased and some markers of airway inflammation are increased in people with asthma who are exposed to ambient urban air in a roadside environment dominated by diesel vehicles.

Supplemental Keywords:

Health Effects, Air Quality, diesel exhaust, airway inflamation, asthma, pulmonary function, ambient air quality, epidemiology

Relevant Websites: Exit

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2005
  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R832347    Health Effects Institute (2005 — 2010)

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R832347C135 Mechanisms of Particulate Matter Toxicity in Neonatal and Young Adult Rat Lungs
    R832347C136 Uptake and Inflammatory Effects of Nanoparticles in a Human Vascular Endothelial Cell Line
    R832347C138 Health Effects of Real-World Exposure to Diesel Exhaust in Persons with Asthma
    R832347C140 Extended Follow-Up and Spatial Analysis of the American Cancer Society Study Linking Particulate Air Pollution and Mortality
    R832347C141 Air Pollution Effects on Ventricular Repolarization
    R832347C143 Measurement and Modeling of Exposure to Selected Air Toxics for Health Effects Studies and Verification by Biomarkers
    R832347C144 Genotoxicity of 1,3-Butadiene and Its Epoxy Intermediates
    R832347C145 Effects of Concentrated Ambient Particles and Diesel Emissions on Rat Airways
    R832347C147 Atmospheric Transformation of Diesel Emissions