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Exposure to Traffic Emissions and Fine Particulate Matter and Computed Tomography Measures of the Lung and Airways

Rice, Mary, B.a; Li, Wenyuanb; Dorans, Kirsten, S.a,b; Wilker, Elissa, H.a,b; Ljungman, Petterc; Gold, Diane, R.b; Schwartz, Joelb; Koutrakis, Petrosb; Kloog, Itaid; Araki, Tetsuroe; Hatabu, Hirotoe,f; San Jose Estepar, Raule; O’Connor, George, T.f,g; Mittleman, Murray, A.a,b; Washko, George, R.e,f

doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000809
Environmental Epidemiology

Background: Exposure to ambient air pollution has been associated with lower lung function in adults, but few studies have investigated associations with radiographic lung and airway measures.

Methods: We ascertained lung volume, mass, density, visual emphysema, airway size, and airway wall area by computed tomography (CT) among 2,545 nonsmoking Framingham CT substudy participants. We examined associations of home distance to major road and PM2.5 (2008 average from a spatiotemporal model using satellite data) with these outcomes using linear and logistic regression models adjusted for age, sex, height, weight, census tract median household value and population density, education, pack-years of smoking, household tobacco exposure, cohort, and date. We tested for differential susceptibility by sex, smoking status (former vs. never), and cohort.

Results: The mean participant age was 60.1 years (standard deviation 11.9 years). Median PM2.5 level was 9.7 µg/m3 (interquartile range, 1.6). Living <100 m from a major road was associated with a 108 ml (95% CI = 8, 207) higher lung volume compared with ≥400 m away. There was also a log-linear association between proximity to road and higher lung volume. There were no convincing associations of proximity to major road or PM2.5 with the other pulmonary CT measures. In subgroup analyses, road proximity was associated with lower lung density among men and higher odds of emphysema among former smokers.

Conclusions: Living near a major road was associated with higher average lung volume, but otherwise, we found no association between ambient pollution and radiographic measures of emphysema or airway disease.

From the aDepartment of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; bHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA; cInstitute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; dDepartment of Geography and Environmental Development, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel; eBrigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA; fThe NHLBI’s Framingham Heart Study, Framingham, MA; and gPulmonary Center, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA.

Submitted May 12, 2017; accepted January 23, 2018.

M.A.M. and G.R.W. contributed equally to this study.

Process to Replicate Results: Research applications can be submitted to the Framingham Heart Study Research Review Committees online at

This results reported herein correspond to specific aim 1 of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences K23 ES026204 grant to M.B.R. This work was also supported by the US Environmental Protection Agency (R832416 and RD834798), the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (the Framingham Heart Study Contract numbers N01-HC-25195 and HHSN268201500001I, and T32HL007575), and National Institute of General Medical Sciences (1P20GM109036-01A1).

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

This publication’s contents are solely the responsibility of the grantee and do not necessarily represent the official views of the US EPA; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institutes of Health; or the US Department of Health and Human Services. Further, US EPA does not endorse the purchase of any commercial products or services.

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Correspondence: Mary B. Rice, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215. E-mail:

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