Cardiovascular Vulnerability to Particulate Pollution

EPA Grant Number: R826780
Title: Cardiovascular Vulnerability to Particulate Pollution
Institution: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
EPA Project Officer: Chung, Serena
Project Period: October 1, 1998 through September 30, 2001
Project Amount: $648,227
RFA: Health Effects of Particulate Matter and Associated Air Pollutants (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air Quality and Air Toxics , Health Effects , Air , Particulate Matter


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in adults in the United States. Associations between particulate air pollution and cardiovascular hospitalization and mortality have been found in population-based epidemiologic studies. However, little is understood about the cardiovascular physiologic mechanisms by which humans respond to particulate exposure. Recent data show that healthy canines respond to concentrated Boston fine particles with ECG repolarization abnormalities including ST segment abnormalities, T-wave alternans (an index of susceptibility to sudden death), and changes typical of hyperadrenergic activity. In susceptible adults we propose to examine whether fine particle (PM 2.5) exposure results in similar changes in cardiovascular function as reflected in changes in blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate regularity, and ECG (electrocardiogram) intervals and morphology, particularly in measures of myocardial conductance, repolarization, and irritability.


Specifically, we propose a time series epidemiologic study involving repeated monitoring of adults to evaluate whether measures of cardiovascular function vary as air pollution varies. We will also assess whether exercise augments the cardiovascular response to pollution. In addition to PM 2.5, O3, NO2, SO2, temperature, and relative humidity effects will be assessed. A community-based panel of 50 active adults 60 to 90 years of age will be recruited and then will be evaluated over two 3-month summer periods. Once per week for 12 weeks each participant will receive ECG Holter monitoring for a 25 minute period involving five minutes of rest supine, five minutes of standing upright, five minutes of exercise, five minutes of recovery and five minutes of slow breathing. Supine and upright blood pressure, continuous heart rate and oximetry will also be monitored. Testing will be conducted five days per week.

Expected Results:

Electrophysiologic outcomes of interest will include ECG repolarization abnormalities, ventricular premature beats, measures of heart rate variability; PR and QT intervals. We expect that particulate pollution will be associat4d with reduced heart rate variability, a risk factor for cardiovascular vulnerability. This study will enable us to assess whether particulate exposure is associated with physiologic changes predictive of cardiovascular vulnerability and sudden death in active humans who are susceptible on the basis of age or preexisting disease.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 15 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 10 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

ambient air, particulates, ozone, elderly, Northeast., RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, Air, Geographic Area, particulate matter, air toxics, Health Risk Assessment, Epidemiology, State, Risk Assessments, Disease & Cumulative Effects, Biochemistry, tropospheric ozone, Atmospheric Sciences, ambient aerosol, health effects, particle size, particulates, cardiac arrhythmia, air pollutants, cardiopulmonary responses, effects assessment, fine particles, human health effects, PM 2.5, exposure and effects, cardiovascular vulnerability, heart rate variability, ozone, air pollution, Massachusetts (MA), chronic health effects, human exposure, particulate exposure, Acute health effects, environmental stressors, harmful environmental agents, ambient particulates, blood pressure, mortality, hyperadrenergic, cardiac arrhythmias, exposure assessment, heart rate

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • Final Report