Background: Several studies have demonstrated associations between daily mortality and ambient particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (fine particles or PM2.5). Few, however, have examined the relative toxicities of PM2.5 constituents, including elemental carbon and organic carbon (EC and OC, respectively), nitrates and transition metals. There is also little information about whether associations between PM2.5 constituents and mortality are modified by socioeconomic and demographic factors.
Aim: To examine associations of daily cardiovascular mortality with PM2.5 and its constituents after stratification by gender, race/ethnicity and education, using data from six California counties during 2000 to 2003.
Methods: The association of daily counts of cardiovascular mortality with PM2.5 components was analysed using time-series regression analyses. Poisson models with natural splines were used to control for time-varying covariates such as season and weather. Separate models were run after stratification by gender, race/ethnicity (White, Hispanic, Black) and education (high school graduation or not). Models were run for each county and results were combined using random effects meta-analysis.
Results: Daily counts of cardiovascular mortality were associated with PM2.5 and several of its species including EC, OC, nitrates, sulphates, potassium, copper and iron. For many of these species, there were significantly higher effect estimates among those with lower educational attainment and Hispanic individuals. For example, while essentially no association was observed for individuals who graduated from high school, an interquartile change in several of the components of PM2.5 was associated with a 3–5% increase in daily mortality among non-high school graduates.
Conclusion: There is evidence that several PM2.5 constituents may represent important contributors to cardiovascular mortality. Many of these constituents are generated by motor vehicles, especially those with diesel engines, and by residential wood combustion. In addition, factors associated with low educational attainment may increase susceptibility to PM2.5 and its components.
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Competing interests: None.