Comparative cardiopulmonary effects of size-fractionated airborne particulate matter.

Amatullah H, North ML, Akhtar US, Rastogi N, Urch B, Silverman FS, Chow CW, Evans GJ, Scott JA.
Inhal Toxicol. 2012 Feb;24(3):161-71. doi: 10.3109/08958378.2011.650235. Epub 2012 Feb 23.

CONTEXT: Strong epidemiological evidence exists linking particulate matter (PM) exposures with hospital admissions of individuals for cardiopulmonary symptoms. The PM size is important in influencing the extent of infiltration into the respiratory tract and systemic circulation and directs the differential physiological impacts.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the differential effects of the quasi-ultrafine (PM(0.2)), fine (PM(0.15-2.5)), and coarse PM (PM(2.5-10)) size fractions on pulmonary and cardiac function.

METHODS: Female BALB/c mice were exposed to HEPA-filtered laboratory air or concentrated coarse, fine, or quasi-ultrafine PM using Harvard Ambient Particle Concentrators in conjunction with our nose-only exposure system. These exposures were conducted as part of the “Health Effects of Aerosols in Toronto (HEAT)” campaign. Following a 4h exposure, mice underwent assessment of respiratory function and recording of electrocardiograms using the flexiVent® system. Results: Exposure to coarse and fine PM resulted in significant reduction in quasistatic compliance of the lung. Baseline total respiratory resistance and maximum responsiveness to methacholine were augmented after coarse PM exposures but were not affected by quasi-ultrafine PM exposures. In contrast, quasi-ultrafine PM alone had a significant effect on heart rate and in reducing heart rate variability.

CONCLUSION: These findings indicate that coarse and fine PM influence lung function and airways responsiveness, while ultrafine PM can perturb cardiac function. This study supports the hypothesis that coarse and fine PM exerts its predominant physiologic effects at the site of deposition in the airways, whereas ultrafine PM likely crosses the alveolar epithelial barrier into the systemic circulation to affect cardiovascular function.

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