Air pollution exposure and telomere length in highly exposed subjects in Beijing, China: A repeated-measure study

Lifang Hou*, Sheng Wang, Chang Dou, Xiao Zhang, Yue Yu, Yinan Zheng, Umakanth Avula, Mirjam Hoxha, Anaité Díaz, John McCracken, Francesco Barretta, Barbara Marinelli, Pier Alberto Bertazzi, Joel Schwartz, Andrea A. Baccarelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Background: Ambient particulate matter (PM) exposure has been associated with short- and long-term effects on cardiovascular disease (CVD). Telomere length (TL) is a biomarker of CVD risk that is modified by inflammation and oxidative stress, two key pathways for PM effects. Whether PM exposure modifies TL is largely unexplored. Objectives: To investigate effects of PM on blood TL in a highly-exposed population. Methods: We measured blood TL in 120 blood samples from truck drivers and 120 blood samples from office workers in Beijing, China. We measured personal PM2.5 and Elemental Carbon (EC, a tracer of traffic particles) using light-weight monitors. Ambient PM10 was obtained from local monitoring stations. We used covariate-adjusted regression models to estimate percent changes in TL per an interquartile-range increase in exposure. Results: Covariate-adjusted TL was higher in drivers (mean=0.87, 95%CI: 0.74; 1.03) than in office workers (mean=0.79, 95%CI: 0.67; 0.93; p=0.001). In all participants combined, TL increased in association with personal PM2.5 (+5.2%, 95%CI: 1.5; 9.1; p=0.007), personal EC (+4.9%, 95%CI: 1.2; 8.8; p=0.01), and ambient PM10 (+7.7%, 95%CI: 3.7; 11.9; p<0.001) on examination days. In contrast, average ambient PM10 over the 14days before the examinations was significantly associated with shorter TL (-9.9%, 95%CI: -17.6; -1.5; p=0.02). Conclusions: Short-term exposure to ambient PM is associated with increased blood TL, consistent with TL roles during acute inflammatory responses. Longer exposures may shorten TL as expected after prolonged pro-oxidant exposures. The observed TL alterations may participate in the biological pathways of short- and long-term PM effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-77
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironment international
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012


  • China
  • Particulate matter
  • Personal monitoring
  • Telomere length
  • Traffic pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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