Adolescents’ rapidly growing bodies may be particularly susceptible to long-lasting effects of exposure to air pollutants, including effects on blood pressure. However, most prior studies on air pollution and blood pressure have focused on adults.
For this analysis, Karamanos and colleagues used data on 3,284 adolescents in Determinants of Adolescent Social Well-Being and Health (DASH) to examine associations between blood pressure and exposure to pollution in the form of nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5; exposures were estimated based on annual mean levels of pollutants where each participant lived.
The researchers found that greater estimated exposure to nitrogen dioxide was associated with lower systolic blood pressure, and greater estimated exposure to PM2.5 was associated with higher systolic blood pressure. These associations were stronger in girls than in boys. No evidence of a relationship between nitrogen dioxide/PM2.5 and diastolic blood pressure was observed.
For example, a 1μg/m 3 increase in nitrogen dioxide was associated with a 0.30 mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure for girls and 0.19 mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure for boys. Meanwhile, a 1μg/m 3 increase in PM2.5 was associated with a 1.34 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure for girls and 0.57 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure for boys. The associations between pollutants and blood pressure were consistent regardless of ethnicity, body size, or socioeconomic status.
Eighty percent of the adolescents studied were from ethnic minority groups, and the residential estimates suggest that these adolescents were exposed to higher levels of the pollutants than their white peers.
The researchers call for further studies to help confirm and clarify these findings, particularly among young people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. They also note that levels of nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5 in London remain well above World Health Organization Guidelines, suggesting opportunities to reduce pollution and improve lifelong health for adolescents in the city.
A. Karamanos, Y. Lu, I. S. Mudway, S. Ayis, F. J. Kelly, S. D. Beevers, D. Dajnak, D. Fecht, C. Elia, S. Tandon, A. J. Webb, A. J. Grande, O. R. Molaodi, M. J. Maynard, J. K. Cruickshank, S. Harding. Associations between air pollutants and blood pressure in an ethnically diverse cohort of adolescents in London, England. PLOS ONE, 2023; 18 (2): e0279719 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0279719
PLOS. “Air pollution linked with blood pressure in London teens: Associations between pollutant levels and blood pressure were stronger for girls than boys in study.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/02/230208155706.htm>.
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