Biomarkers of PAH Exposure and Asthma in an Inner City Birth Cohort

EPA Grant Number: R832096
Title: Biomarkers of PAH Exposure and Asthma in an Inner City Birth Cohort
Investigators: Miller, Rachel L. , Perera, Frederica P. , Whyatt, Robin M.
Institution: Columbia University in the City of New York
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: December 1, 2004 through December 31, 2007
Project Amount: $749,872
RFA: Application of Biomarkers to Environmental Health and Risk Assessment (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Application of Biomarkers to Environmental Health and Risk Assessment , Health Effects , Health


Living in areas with high volumes of motorized traffic or near increased levels of fine ambient particulate matter has been associated with respiratory symptoms and asthma in children. Several studies seem to suggest that the PAHs themselves may be the biologically active components that increase the risk of airway allergic inflammation that characterizes most asthma in children. More recently we have acquired data suggesting that the PAH pyrene may promote symptoms by upregulating the production of the antibody that typify asthma or allergy, namely immunoglobulin E (IgE). Despite such substantial progress in the field, direct associations between exposure to PAH-related air pollution, biomarkers for PAH exposure, biomarkers for biological effects of such exposures, and the onset of immunological or clinical signs of asthma, have not yet been demonstrated.

We hypothesize that biomarkers for PAH exposure will help predict increased risk for inner city asthma. Specifically, we propose to: determine whether a) increased PAH levels in the air measured prenatally, or b) increased PAH-DNA adducts in the blood of 5-year olds, are associated with increased urinary PAH metabolites in an inner city birth cohort; 2) determine whether increased urinary PAH metabolites are associated with early indicators of asthma or allergy, asthma symptoms, and/or diagnosis of asthma at age 5 years; and 3) determine whether the presence of increased urinary PAH metabolites increases the association between environmental levels of allergens in home dust and indicators of asthma or allergy, asthma symptoms, and/or diagnosis of asthma at age 5 years.


Our strategy is to take advantage of an established Northern Manhattan inner city birth cohort as part of Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health in which multiple environmental exposures, biomarkers, and health outcomes already are being measured prospectively from the third trimester of pregnancy through age 5 years. We propose to augment the existing age 5 measurement protocol to include assessment of urinary PAH metabolites as indicators of PAH-related air pollutant exposure.

Expected Results:

Identification of biomarkers for environmental exposure to PAHs is important because they represent internal doses of exposure compounds from total recent exposures. We expect to determine the relationship between exposure measures of PAH in the air, biomarkers of exposure to PAH by measuring urinary metabolites, and biomarkers of biological effects by measuring PAH DNA adducts with early indicators of allergic disease and diagnosis of asthma at age 5 years. In addition, expect to determine the relationship between PAH and allergen exposure to asthma outcomes. This information ultimately could lead to potentially better modes for determining increased asthma risk, and hence, intervention against the disease.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 10 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 7 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

media, air, health effects, risk assessment, exposure, biomarker, dose-response high risk groups, human exposure, inhaled pollutants, air pollution, air quality, airborne urban contaminants, co-pollutant exposures, allergen exposure, diesel exhaust, PAHs, PAH DNA adducts, metabolites, environmental hazard exposures, exposure assessment, human health, children’s health, infant health, inner city asthma, ethnic groups, lung inflammation, allergic inflammation, epidemiology, lung function, Northern Manhattan, RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, Air, particulate matter, Environmental Chemistry, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, Susceptibility/Sensitive Population/Genetic Susceptibility, Allergens/Asthma, Environmental Monitoring, genetic susceptability, ambient air quality, atmospheric particulate matter, particulates, asthma triggers, sensitive populations, asthma, air toxics, atmospheric particles, chemical characteristics, ambient air monitoring, health risks, airborne particulate matter, asthma indices, environmental risks, exposure, second hand smoke, airway disease, inner city, airway inflammation, air pollution, PAH, aerosol composition, atmospheric aerosol particles, human exposure, airborne pollutants, inhalation, human susceptibility, allergic response, tobacco smoke, Manhattan

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2005 Progress Report
  • 2006 Progress Report
  • 2007 Progress Report
  • Final Report