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Association between long-term exposure to traffic particles and blood pressure in the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study
  1. Joel Schwartz1,2,
  2. Stacey E Alexeeff2,3,
  3. Irina Mordukhovich4,
  4. Alexandros Gryparis3,
  5. Pantel Vokonas5,
  6. Helen Suh2,
  7. Brent A Coull3
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Department of Biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  5. 5Department of Medicine, VA Normative Aging Study, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Stacey E Alexeeff, Department of Biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Ave, Building 2, 4th floor, Boston, MA 02215, USA; salexeeff{at}


Objectives Particulate air pollution is associated with cardiovascular events, but the mechanisms are not fully understood. The main objective was to assess the relationship between long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution and blood pressure (BP).

Methods The authors used longitudinal data from 853 elderly men participating in the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study, followed during 1996–2008. Long-term average exposures to traffic particles were created from daily predictions of black carbon (BC) exposure at the geocoded address of each subject, using a validated spatiotemporal model based on ambient monitoring at 82 Boston-area locations. The authors examined the association of these exposures with BP using a mixed model. The authors included the following covariates: age, body mass index, smoking, alcohol, fasting glucose, creatinine clearance, use of cardiovascular medication, education, census-level poverty, day of week and season of clinical visit.

Results The authors found significant positive associations between 1-year average BC exposure and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. An IQR increase in 1-year average BC exposure (0.32 μg/m3) was associated with a 2.64 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure (95% CI 1.47 to 3.80) and a 2.41 mm Hg increase in diastolic blood pressure (95% CI 1.77 to 3.05).

Conclusions Long-term exposure to traffic particles is associated with increased BP, which may explain part of the association with myocardial infarctions and cardiovascular deaths reported in cohort studies.

  • Air pollution
  • epidemiology
  • exposure assessment
  • longitudinal studies
  • cardiovascular
  • air pollution
  • statistics

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  • Funding This work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grants ES015172-01 and ES00002 and the US Environmental Protection Agency grants RD-832416-01 and RD-834798-01. The Normative Ageing Study is supported by the Cooperative Studies Program/Epidemiology Research and Information Center of the US Department of Veterans Affairs and is a component of the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center (MAVERIC), Boston, MA.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Human Subjects Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.