The impacts of short-term exposure to noise and traffic-related air pollution on heart rate variability in young healthy adults

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Traffic-related air pollution and noise are associated with cardiovascular diseases, and alternation of heart rate variability (HRV), which reflects cardiac autonomic function, is one of the mechanisms. However, few studies considered the impacts of noise when exploring associations between air pollution and HRV. We explored whether noise modifies associations between short-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution and HRV in young healthy adults. In this randomized, crossover study, 40 young healthy adults stayed for 2 h in a traffic center and, on a separate occasion, in a park. Personal exposure to traffic-related air pollutants and noise were measured and ambulatory electrocardiogram was performed. Effects were estimated using mixed-effects regression models. Traffic-related air pollution and noise were both associated with HRV, and effects of air pollutants were amplified at high noise level (>65.6 A-weighted decibels (dB[A])) compared with low noise level (≤65.6 dB[A]). High frequency (HF) decreased by -4.61% (95% confidence interval, -6.75% to -2.42%) per 10 μg/m3 increment in fine particle (PM2.5) at 5-min moving average, but effects became insignificant at low noise level (P > 0.05). Similar effects modification was observed for black carbon (BC) and carbon monoxide (CO). We conclude that noise is an important factor influencing the effects of air pollution on HRV.

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