October 12, 2023

Long-Term Pollution Exposure Linked to Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health in Young Adults

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Air pollution is a global environmental challenge that continues to pose significant threats to human health. While the harmful effects of air pollution on respiratory health are well documented, emerging research now highlights its profound impact on cardiovascular health as well. A recent study, drawing upon data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) and the Fused Air Quality Surface using Downscaling (FAQSD) archive, sheds light on the long-term consequences of air pollution exposure on the cardiovascular and metabolic health of young adults between the ages of 24 and 34.

Mercedes A. Bravo et al. analyzed multi-year estimates of exposure to ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 2.5µm or less (PM2.5) for Add Health participants to determine the associations between these air pollution exposures and various biomarkers of cardiometabolic health including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, body mass index (BMI), diabetes, C-reactive protein, and metabolic syndrome. The study considered data from 2002 to 2007, aligning these exposures with measurements taken at Wave IV of the Add Health study in 2008 to 2009 and included adjustments for age, race/ethnicity, and sex. The findings suggest that young adults exposed to elevated levels of O3 and PM2.5 are at a heightened risk of developing cardiovascular issues like hypertension, obesity, and diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome. The study also observed race/ethnicity differences in the exposure to PM2.5 and O3, with Non-Hispanic Black participants having the highest exposure to both O3 and PM2.5

The longitudinal design of the Add Health data from Wave I to V allows researchers to develop a clearer picture of how health throughout the life course is affected by demographics, social and familial environments, behavior, biomarkers, anthropometric measures, and genetics.

Mercedes A. Bravo, PhD

Fang Fang, PhD

Dana B. Hancock, PhD

Eric O. Johnson, PhD

Kathleen Mullan Harris, PhD

Bravo, Mercedes A.; Fang, Fang; Hancock, Dana B.; Johnson, Eric O.; & Mullan Harris, Kathleen (2023). Long-term air pollution exposure and markers of cardiometabolic health in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) Study. Environment International.