ECG parameters and exposure to carbon ultrafine particles in young healthy subjects

Wojciech Zareba, Jean Philippe Couderc, Gunter Oberdorster, David Chalupa, Christopher Cox, Li Shan Huang, Annette Peters, Mark J. Utell, Mark W. Frampton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The mechanisms underlying the association between air pollution and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality are unknown. This study aimed to determine whether controlled exposure to elemental carbon ultrafine particles (UFP) affects electrocardiogram (ECG) parameters describing heart rate variability; repolarization duration, morphology, and variability; and changes in the ST segment. Two separate controlled studies (12 subjects each) were performed using a crossover design, in which each subject was exposed to filtered air and carbon UFP for 2 hours. The first protocol involved 2 exposures to air and 10 μg/m3 (∼2 × 106 particles/cm3, count median diameter ∼25 nm, geometric standard deviation ∼1.6), at rest. The second protocol included 3 exposures to air, 10, and 25 μg/m3 UFP (∼7 × 106 particles/cm3), with repeated exercise. Each subject underwent a continuous digital 12-lead ECG Holter recording to analyze the above ECG parameters. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to compare tested parameters between exposures. The observed responses to UFP exposure were small and generally not significant, although there were trends indicating an increase in parasympathetic tone, which is most likely also responsible for trends toward ST elevation, blunted QTc shortening, and increased variability of T-wave complexity after exposure to UFP. Recovery from exercise showed a blunted response of the parasympathetic system after exposure to UFP in comparison to air exposure. In conclusion, transient exposure to 10-25 μg/m3 ultrafine carbon particles does not cause marked changes in ECG-derived parameters in young healthy subjects. However, trends are observed indicating that some subjects might be susceptible to air pollution, with a response involving autonomic modulation of the heart and repolarization of the ventricular myocardium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-233
Number of pages11
JournalInhalation Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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