Cardiorespiratory Biomarker Responses in Healthy Young Adults to Drastic Air Quality Changes Surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympics

EPA Grant Number: R834677C174
Subproject: this is subproject number 174 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R834677
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Health Effects Institute (2010 — 2015)
Center Director: Greenbaum, Daniel S.
Title: Cardiorespiratory Biomarker Responses in Healthy Young Adults to Drastic Air Quality Changes Surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympics
Investigators: Zhang, Junfeng
Institution: Health Effects Institute (HEI)
EPA Project Officer: Hunt, Sherri
Project Period: April 1, 2010 through March 31, 2015
RFA: Health Effects Institute (2010) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Health Effects , Air


HEI’s Outcomes Research Program has been designed to evaluate the effects of regulatory and other actions taken to improve air quality. The overall goal has been to provide evidence about the extent to which air quality regulations may or may not have improved air quality and health. Some funded studies have looked at the effects of interventions lasting only a limited period of time. These studies took advantage of a unique event such as the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, for which traffi c and other changes were to be made in the local area with the goal of improving air quality for the duration of the event. The current study capitalized on a similar unique event.

In 2006 Dr. Junfeng (Jim) Zhang, then of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey– School of Public Health and the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at Rutgers University, submitted a preliminary application to HEI, “Health Impact of Changes in Air Pollution Levels and PM Composition Brought by the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing,” in response to a request for preliminary applications issued by HEI. The investigator indicated that the Chinese government was launching a series of aggressive policies to reduce local and regional emissions that affected air quality in the greater Beijing metropolitan area in the period leading up to and during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. These controls aimed to limit both vehicular traffi c on Beijing roads and emissions from industrial, power generation, and commercial facilities in Beijing, as well as construction activities. The goals of the study were to measure levels of air pollutants in the city and evaluate prospectively the impact on human cardiovascular responses of the likely changes in air pollution levels that would be associated with the control measures to be implemented. Zhang and colleagues hypothesized that levels of multiple cardiovascular biomarkers would change signifi cantly during the Olympic air pollution reduction period compared with the pre-Olympics period, and would revert to pre- Olympics levels following relaxation of the air pollution controls after the Olympics. The investigators also hypothesized that changes in specifi c pollutants would be associated with changes in specifi c biomarkers.


Zhang and colleagues divided the study into three periods: the pre-Olympics period (June 2– July 20, 2008), the during-Olympics period (July 21–September 19), and the post-O lympics period (September 20–October 30). They made daily measurements of multiple air pollutants on the roof of a seven-story building located in the center of the Peking University First Hospital campus: mass concentration of particles less than or equal to 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5), elemental carbon (EC) and organic carbon (OC), inorganic ions (including sulfate and nitrate), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and trace elements (including multiple transition metals such as nickel and vanadium). The investigators also measured levels of multiple gaseous pollutants — ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrous oxides (NOx) — as well as ambient temperature and relative humidity at the central site. As a result of technical problems with the instrument at the central site, the investigators had to rely on a site 7 km from where the other pollutant measurements were Health Impact of Changes in Air Pollution Levels and PM Composition Brought by the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing made for most measurements of the number of ultrafine particles (<100 nm in aero dynamic diameter) — that is, particle number concentration and total particle number (TPN).

The investigators reported results from 125 healthy young (ages 19–33) subjects — primarily medical residents who worked at Peking First University Hospital in Central Beijing and who lived within 5 km of the Hospital. At each of six clinical visits — two within each period (and separated by at least 1 week) — vital signs and a set of biomarkers were measured in each study subject. The endpoints measured included electrocardiography (ECG), heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV), systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressure; biomarkers of systemic infl ammation and oxidative stress, including white blood cell (WBC) counts and dif ferential cell counts in plasma, as well as levels of fi brinogen, C-reactive protein (CRP), and urinary 8-hydroxy-2- deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG); biomarkers of pulmonary infl ammation and oxidative stress: fractional e xhaled nitric oxide (FeNO), and exhaled breath condensate (EBC) — specifi cally, pH (from which they calculated hydrogen ion concentration), nitrate, nitrite, nitrite+nitrate, and 8-isoprostane; and biomarkers of plasma clotting pathways: platelet activation (soluble P-selectin [sCD62P] and soluble CD40 ligand [sCD40L]), platelet aggregation, and von Willebrand factor [vWF]).

The investigators used two approaches to analyze associations between pollutant levels and most biomarkers — mixed models to examine the effects of period (pre-, during-, and post-Olympics), and a time-series analysis to examine pollutant effects, focusing on changes within the few days prior to a clinical visit (lag days 0–6, where lag day 0 is the day of a visit). Zhang and colleagues also conducted multiple sensitivity analyses for the associations between biomarkers and pollutant levels.

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R834677    Health Effects Institute (2010 — 2015)

Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
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R834677C174 Cardiorespiratory Biomarker Responses in Healthy Young Adults to Drastic Air Quality Changes Surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympics