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While there is clear evidence that high levels of pollution are associated with increased all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality and morbidity, the biological mechanisms that would explain this association are less understood. We examined the association between long-term exposure to air pollutants and risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Air pollutant concentrations were estimated at place of residence for cohort members in the Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing Health in Men Study. Blood samples and blood pressure measures were taken for a cohort of 4249 men aged 70 years and above between 2001 and 2004. We examined the association between 1-year average pollutant concentrations with blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, C-reactive protein, and total homocysteine. Linear regression analyses were carried out, with adjustment for confounding, as well as an assessment of potential effect modification. The four pollutants examined were fine particulate matter, black carbon (BC), nitrogen dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. We found that a 2.25 μg/m3 higher exposure to fine particulate matter was associated with a 1.1 percent lower high-density cholesterol (95% confidence interval: -2.4 to 0.1) and 4.0 percent higher serum triglycerides (95% confidence interval: 1.5 to 6.6). Effect modification of these associations by diabetes history was apparent. We found no evidence of an association between any of the remaining risk factors or biomarkers with measures of outdoor air pollution. These findings indicate that long-term PM2.5 exposure is associated with elevated serum triglycerides and decreased HDL cholesterol. This requires further investigation to determine the reasons for this association.
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