Exposure to traffic pollution, acute inflammation and autonomic response in a panel of car commuters

Jeremy A. Sarnat, Rachel Golan, Roby Greenwald, Amit U. Raysoni, Priya Kewada, Andrea Winquist, Stefanie E. Sarnat, W. Dana Flanders, Maria C. Mirabelli, Jennifer E. Zora, Michael H. Bergin, Fuyuen Yip

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Background: Exposure to traffic pollution has been linked to numerous adverse health endpoints. Despite this, limited data examining traffic exposures during realistic commutes and acute response exists. Objectives: We conducted the Atlanta Commuters Exposures (ACE-1) Study, an extensive panel-based exposure and health study, to measure chemically-resolved in-vehicle exposures and corresponding changes in acute oxidative stress, lipid peroxidation, pulmonary and systemic inflammation and autonomic response. Methods: We recruited 42 adults (21 with and 21 without asthma) to conduct two 2-h scripted highway commutes during morning rush hour in the metropolitan Atlanta area. A suite of in-vehicle particulate components were measured in the subjects' private vehicles. Biomarker measurements were conducted before, during, and immediately after the commutes and in 3 hourly intervals after commutes. Results: At measurement time points within 3. h after the commute, we observed mild to pronounced elevations relative to baseline in exhaled nitric oxide, C-reactive-protein, and exhaled malondialdehyde, indicative of pulmonary and systemic inflammation and oxidative stress initiation, as well as decreases relative to baseline levels in the time-domain heart-rate variability parameters, SDNN and rMSSD, indicative of autonomic dysfunction. We did not observe any detectable changes in lung function measurements (FEV1, FVC), the frequency-domain heart-rate variability parameter or other systemic biomarkers of vascular injury. Water soluble organic carbon was associated with changes in eNO at all post-commute time-points (p<0.0001). Conclusions: Our results point to measureable changes in pulmonary and autonomic biomarkers following a scripted 2-h highway commute.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-76
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Asthma
  • Car commute
  • Exhaled nitric oxide
  • Heart rate variability


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