Long-term effects of total and source-specific particulate air pollution on incident cardiovascular disease in Gothenburg, Sweden

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Abstract

Background and aims

Long-term exposure to air pollution increases cardiopulmonary morbidity and mortality, but it is not clear which components of air pollution are the most harmful, nor which time window of exposure is most relevant. Further studies at low exposure levels have also been called for. We analyzed two Swedish cohorts to investigate the effects of total and source-specific particulate matter (PM) on incident cardiovascular disease for different time windows of exposure.

Methods

Two cohorts initially recruited to study predictors of cardiovascular disease (the PPS cohort and the GOT-MONICA cohort) were followed from 1990 to 2011. We collected data on residential addresses and assigned each individual yearly total and source-specific PM and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) exposures based on dispersion models. Using multivariable Cox regression models with time-dependent exposure, we studied the association between three different time windows (lag 0, lag 1–5, and exposure at study start) of residential PM and NOx exposure, and incidence of ischemic heart disease, stroke, heart failure and atrial fibrillation.

Results and discussion

During the study period, there were 2266 new-onset cases of ischemic heart disease, 1391 of stroke, 925 of heart failure and 1712 of atrial fibrillation. The majority of cases were in the PPS cohort, where participants were older. Exposure levels during the study period were moderate (median: 13 μg/m3 for PM10 and 9 μg/m3 for PM2.5), and similar in both cohorts. Road traffic and residential heating were the largest local sources of PM air pollution, and long distance transportation the largest PM source in total. In the PPS cohort, there were positive associations between PM in the last five years and both ischemic heart disease (HR: 1.24 [95% CI: 0.98–1.59] per 10 μg/m3 of PM10, and HR: 1.38 [95% CI: 1.08–1.77] per 5 μg/m3 of PM2.5) and heart failure. In the GOT-MONICA cohort, there were positive but generally non-significant associations between PM and stroke (HR: 1.48 [95% CI: 0.88–2.49] per 10 μg/m3 of PM10, and HR: 1.50 [95% CI: 0.90–2.51] per 5 μg/m3 of PM2.5, in the last five years). Effect estimates were stronger for women, non-smokers, and higher socioeconomic classes. Exposure in the last five years seemed to be more strongly associated with outcomes than other exposure time windows. Associations between source-specific PM air pollution and outcomes were mixed and generally weak. High correlations between the main pollutants limited the use of multi-pollutant models.

Conclusions

The main PM air pollutants were associated with ischemic heart disease and stroke (in women) at the relatively low exposure levels in Gothenburg, Sweden. The associations tended to be stronger for women than for men, for non-smokers than for smokers, and for higher socioeconomic classes than for lower. The associations could not be attributed to a specific PM source or type, and differed somewhat between the two cohorts. The results of this study confirm that further efforts to reduce air pollution exposure should be undertaken in Sweden to reduce the negative health effects in the general population.

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