Long-term residential exposure to air pollution is associated with hair cortisol concentration and differential leucocyte count in Flemish adolescent boys

Veerle J. Verheyen, Sylvie Remy, Esmée M. Bijnens, Ann Colles, Eva Govarts, Laura Rodriguez Martin, Gudrun Koppen, Liesbeth Bruckers, Flemming Nielsen, Stijn Vos, Bert Morrens, Dries Coertjens, Annelies De Decker, Carmen Franken, Elly Den Hond, Vera Nelen, Adrian Covaci, Ilse Loots, Stefaan De Henauw, Nicolas van LarebekeCaroline Teughels, Tim S. Nawrot, Greet Schoeters

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Abstract

Background: Exposure to air pollution and traffic noise are associated with adverse health outcomes in adolescents. Chronic endocrine stress and systemic inflammation have been hypothesized to underlie the adverse health effects. Simultaneous assessment of inflammation and chronic endocrine stress in epidemiological studies is lacking. The aim of the study was to investigate biomarkers of chronic endocrine stress and inflammation in relation to long-term residential exposure to air pollution and traffic noise in adolescents. Methods: In Flemish adolescents (14–15 years), we determined hair cortisol concentration (HCC) as a chronic stress biomarker in 3-cm scalp-near hair sections (n = 395), and leucocyte and leucocyte subtype counts (neutrophils, monocytes, lymphocytes) as inflammatory biomarkers in peripheral blood (n = 385). Daily particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and black carbon (BC) concentrations were modelled at the residential address and averaged over 3-month and 1-year periods prior to sampling. Residential traffic noise level was estimated and classified in 5 dB intervals. Sex-specific associations between residential exposures and effect biomarkers were studied using linear regression models, adjusted for a priori selected covariates. Results: In boys, HCC increased with a factor 1.30 (95% CI: 1.10, 1.54) for an increase in 1-year mean NO2 from the 25th to 75th percentile (p75/p25), after adjustment for age, BMI, personal and neighborhood socioeconomic status. The corresponding estimate for PM10 was 1.24 (95% CI: 1.02, 1.51). Total leucocyte count in boys, adjusted for the aforementioned covariates and recent health complaints, was positively associated with PM2.5, PM10, NO2 and BC. In particular, the neutrophil count increased with a factor 1.11 (95% CI: 1.03, 1.19) for a (p75/p25)-factor increase in 1-year mean BC, corresponding estimates for PM2.5, PM10 and NO2 were 1.10 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.19), 1.10 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.20) and 1.08 (95% CI: 1.00, 1.16). Lymphocyte count increased with a factor 1.05 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.10) for a (p75/p25)-factor increase in 1-year mean NO2. Similar results were observed for 3-month mean exposures. Results were robust to adjustment for recent air pollution exposure. In girls, air pollutants were not associated with HCC or differential leucocyte count. Residential traffic noise level was not associated with HCC or leucocyte counts in boys nor girls. Conclusions: Long-term residential exposure to air pollutants was positively associated with chronic endocrine stress and inflammation in adolescent boys, not in girls. This study may contribute to a better understanding of the early pathophysiological changes that may underlie adverse health effects of air pollution exposure in adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111595
JournalEnvironmental Research
Volume201
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Chronic endocrine stress
  • Flemish Environment and Health Study (FLEHS)
  • Inflammation
  • Long-term ambient air pollution
  • Traffic noise

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