Source-specific pollution exposure and associations with pulmonary response in the Atlanta Commuters Exposure Studies


Concentrations of traffic-related air pollutants are frequently higher within commuting vehicles than in ambient air. Pollutants found within vehicles may include those generated by tailpipe exhaust, brake wear, and road dust sources, as well as pollutants from in-cabin sources. Source-specific pollution, compared to total pollution, may represent regulation targets that can better protect human health. We estimated source-specific pollution exposures and corresponding pulmonary response in a panel study of commuters. We used constrained positive matrix factorization to estimate source-specific pollution factors and, subsequently, mixed effects models to estimate associations between source-specific pollution and pulmonary response. We identified four pollution factors that we named: crustal, primary tailpipe traffic, non-tailpipe traffic, and secondary. Among asthmatic subjects (N = 48), interquartile range increases in crustal and secondary pollution were associated with changes in lung function of −1.33% (95% confidence interval (CI): −2.45, −0.22) and −2.19% (95% CI: −3.46, −0.92) relative to baseline, respectively. Among non-asthmatic subjects (N = 51), non-tailpipe pollution was associated with pulmonary response only at 2.5 h post-commute. We found no significant associations between pulmonary response and primary tailpipe pollution. Health effects associated with traffic-related pollution may vary by source, and therefore some traffic pollution sources may require targeted interventions to protect health.

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Research reported in this publication was supported by a Clean Air Research Center grant to Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology from the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA, RD834799). This publication was also made possible by a grant to Emory University from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (T32ES012160). R Golan gratefully acknowledges support by a post-doctoral fellowship from the Environment and Health Fund, Jerusalem, Israel. The content of this publication is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the USEPA. Further, USEPA does not endorse the purchase of any commercial products or services mentioned in the publication.

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Correspondence to Jenna R. Krall.

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Krall, J.R., Ladva, C.N., Russell, A.G. et al. Source-specific pollution exposure and associations with pulmonary response in the Atlanta Commuters Exposure Studies. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 28, 337–347 (2018).

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  • Source apportionment
  • Pulmonary health
  • Air pollution
  • Traffic pollution
  • Commuting
  • On-road exposures

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