Air pollution, traffic noise, and atherosclerosis: the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study

Posted On 2013-11-11 16:10:15

A recent article from the West German Heart Center in Essen, Germany published in the European Heart journal discusses the relationship between air pollution, traffic noise, and cardiovascular disease (1).

The authors describe that recent data have linked living close to high traffic to subclinical atherosclerosis, but that it remains unclear if fine particulate matter (PM) air pollution or noise are responsible for the association. The authors therefore investigated the independent associations of long-term exposure to fine PM and road traffic noise with thoracic aortic calcification (TAC), a measure of subclinical atherosclerosis.

The authors used baseline data (2000-2003) from the German Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study, a population-based cohort of 4814 randomly selected participants. They assessed residential long-term exposure to PM and road traffic noise including night-time noise (Lnight). Thoracic aortic calcification was quantified from non-contrast enhanced electron beam computed tomography. Multiple linear regression was used to estimate associations of environmental exposures with ln (TAC+1), adjusting for each other, individual, and neighbourhood characteristics. In 4238 participants (mean age 60 years, 49.9% male), PM2.5 (aerodynamic diameter ≤2.5 µm) and Lnight are both associated with an increasing TAC-burden of 18.1% (95% CI: 6.6; 30.9%) per 2.4 µg/m3 PM2.5 and 3.9% (95% CI 0.0; 8.0%) per 5dB(A) Lnight, respectively, in the full model and after mutual adjustment. The authors did not observe effect measure modification of the PM2.5 association by Lnight or vice versa.

The authors conclude that long-term exposure to fine PM and night-time traffic noise are both independently associated with subclinical atherosclerosis and may both contribute to the association of traffic proximity with atherosclerosis.This topic is increasingly discussed in the medical literature worldwide (2).


  1. Kälsch H, Hennig F, Moebus S, Möhlenkamp S, Dragano N, Jakobs H, Memmesheimer M, Erbel R, Jöckel KH, Hoffmann B; on behalf of the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study Investigative Group. Are air pollution and traffic noise independently associated with atherosclerosis: the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study. Eur Heart J. 2013 Nov 4. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Meng X, Ma Y, Chen R, Zhou Z, Chen B, Kan H. Size-fractionated particle number concentrations and daily mortality in a Chinese city. Environ Health Perspect. 2013 Oct;121(10):1174-8.