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Member Research and Reports

UNC: Study of More Than 165,000 Participants Supports Connection Between Particulate Matter Air Pollution and Inflammation

A new study from UNC-Chapel Hill researchers indicates that exposure to ambient particulate matter in air pollution was associated with increased inflammatory responses in 165,675 geographically and ethnically diverse participants across the United States.

Dr. Rahul Gondalia, research collaborator and former doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, is first author of a recent article in Environmental Health Perspectives titled, “Leukocyte Traits and Exposure to Ambient Particulate Matter Air Pollution in the Women’s Health Initiative and Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.” Research associate professor of epidemiology Dr. Eric Whitsel is senior author of the study, and Dr. Yun Li, associate professor of biostatistics, is a co-author.

The link between cardiovascular disease and particulate matter — small liquid and solid particles found in air pollution — is well known, but the pathophysiology is still not fully understood.

Building on previous research, Dr. Gondalia’s team estimated the association of white blood cell traits with short- to long-duration exposure to particulate matter among participants enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative and the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities studies.

Their work, which estimated regional particulate matter exposure for study participants according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), suggests that mid- to long-duration (between one month and one year) exposure to ambient particulate matter may be associated with higher white blood cell counts, which is indicative of systemic inflammatory response in the body and is linked with cardiovascular disease risk.

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