Health Impacts of Breathing Traffic Air Pollution While Commuting

Posted at 12:07 pm July 16, 2015, in Research Highlights
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The route that each participant travelled, from the Rutgers Piscataway campus to the Vince Lombardi Service Area in Ridgefield NJ, and then back to the campus.

We all know that driving on New Jersey’s congested roadways can lead to aggravation and stress. A recent study at the Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease (CEED) found that traffic air pollution may cause stress on our lungs and airways as well.

Drivers and passengers traveling on busy roadways routinely inhale air pollutants (gases and particles) from other cars and trucks. During morning rush hour traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike, 21 volunteers were passengers for two 90-minute car rides For one car ride, the volunteers breathed the usual levels of traffic particles that enter the car, but for the other car ride the air was filtered to remove traffic particles.

We measured higher levels of nitrite in breath samples immediately after the unfiltered ride. The results suggest that traffic particles may increase oxidative stress in the airways, potentially contributing to inflammation and adverse health effects. More research is needed to determine if and how this stress may be related to important health outcomes.

One of the investigators demonstrates how the comfortable, light-weight air purifying respirator was worn by the participants in the study.

One of the investigators demonstrates how the comfortable, light-weight
air purifying respirator was worn by the participants in the study.

In the future we are expanding these studies to include daily commuters and people who live near congested roadways.

Nitrite levels in exhaled breath before (pre), immediately after (post) and 6 and 24 hours after the car ride, showing the increase in nitrite immediately after the car ride.

Click here to read more: Laumbach R.J., Kipen H.M., Ko S., Kelly-McNeil K., Cepeda C., Pettit A., Ohman-Strickland P., Zhang L., Zhang J., Gong J., Veleeparambil M. and Gow A.J. (2014). A controlled trial of acute effects of human exposure to traffic particles on pulmonary oxidative stress and heart rate variability. Particle and Fibre Toxicology 11: 45.

Click here to learn about currently ongoing studies at EOHSI.

This research was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) through the Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease at EOHSI (NIH-NIEHS P30 ES005022).

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