Air Pollution and Progression of Atherosclerosis in Different Vessel Beds—Results from a Prospective Cohort Study in the Ruhr Area, Germany
Environmental Health Perspectives
Due to inconsistent epidemiological evidence on health effects of air pollution on progression of atherosclerosis, we investigated several air pollutants and their effects on progression of atherosclerosis, using carotid intima media thickness (cIMT), coronary calcification (CAC), and thoracic aortic calcification (TAC). We used baseline (2000-2003) and 5-y follow-up (2006-2008) data from the German Heinz Nixdorf Recall cohort study, including 4,814 middle-aged adults. Residence-based long-term
... nce-based long-term air pollution exposure, including particulate matter (PM) with aerodynamic diameter ≤2.5μm (PM2.5), (PM10), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was assessed using chemistry transport and land use regression (LUR) models. cIMT was quantified as side-specific median IMT assessed from standardized ultrasound images. CAC and TAC were quantified by computed tomography using the Agatston score. Development (yes/no) and progression of atherosclerosis (change in cIMT and annual growth rate for CAC/TAC) were analyzed with logistic and linear regression models, adjusting for age, sex, lifestyle variables, socioeconomic status, and traffic noise. While no clear associations were observed in the full study sample (mean age 59.1 (±7.6) y; 53% female), most air pollutants were marginally associated with progression of atherosclerosis in participants with no or low baseline atherosclerotic burden. Most consistently for CAC, e.g., a 1.5 μg/m3 higher exposure to PM2.5 (LUR) yielded an estimated odds ratio of 1.19 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.03, 1.39] for progression of CAC and an increased annual growth rate of 2% (95% CI: 1%, 4%). Our study suggests that development and progression of subclinical atherosclerosis is associated with long-term air pollution in middle-aged participants with no or minor atherosclerotic burden at baseline, while overall no consistent associations are observed. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP7077.