Introduction Exposure to fine particulate matter in urban air has been associated with increased risk of hospitalisation and death from cardiovascular diseases. One hypothesis suggests a direct influence of particles on the autonomic nervous system. Some studies have shown an association between particle exposure and reduced heart rate variability (HRV). Furnace workers in metal smelters are occupationally exposed to fine and ultrafine particles. The aim of this study was to examine the association between exposure to particulate matter in metal smelters and HRV.
Methods We examined 64 workers in three Norwegian metal smelters on a working day, and on a day off after at least two days since last exposure. On the working day, exposure to different particle size fractions was assessed by personal sampling, using respirable cyclones and five-stage Sioutas cascade impactors. The workers carried Holter monitors for 24 hours’ heart rate registration during the working day and the day off. HRV indices were analysed by exposure for each hour of the day, using mixed model regression, adjusted for relevant covariates.
Results There were 58 male and 6 female workers. Their mean age was 34 years (range 19–64). The mean exposure to respirable particulate matter was 2.36 mg/m3, while 0.88 mg/m3 was below 250 nm. Standard deviation of normal-to-normal intervals (SDNN) was reduced during working hours on the working day relative to the day off, whereas in the afternoon and night hours there were no significant differences. Low frequency/high frequency (LF/HF) ratio was higher during working hours on the working day, but in the afternoon and evening hours the LF/HF ratio was significantly higher on the day off compared to the working day.
Conclusion HRV indices differ between working day and day off. Analyses are in progression, and further results on the effects of particle exposure will be presented.
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