DOI: 10.3390/ijerph20176701 ISSN:

Chronic Occupational Exposure to Traffic Pollution Is Associated with Increased Carotid Intima-Media Thickness in Healthy Urban Traffic Control Police

Abdulrazak O. Balogun, M. Margaret Weigel, Edmundo Estévez, Rodrigo X. Armijos
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Urban traffic officers in many low- and middle-income countries are exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollutants (TRAP) while working vehicle control on heavily congested streets. The impact of chronic TRAP exposure on the cardiovascular health, including the carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT), of this outdoor occupational group remains unclear. This cross-sectional study compared the average mean and maximum CIMT measurements of two groups of relatively young, healthy traffic police (32 ± 7 years; 77% male) in Quito, Ecuador, who were without clinical evidence of serious cardiovascular or other disease. Previously published background data on PM10 (a TRAP surrogate) indicated that street levels of the pollutant were several orders of magnitude higher at the street intersections worked by traffic police compared to those working only in an office. Accordingly, officers permanently assigned to daily traffic control duties requiring them to stand 0–3 m from heavily trafficked street intersections were assigned to the high exposure group (n = 61). The control group (n = 54) consisted of officers from the same organization who were permanently assigned to office duties inside an administration building. Mean and maximum CIMT were measured with ultrasound. General linear models were used to compare the CIMT measurements of the high exposure and control groups, adjusting for covariates. The adjusted average mean and maximum CIMT measures of the high exposure group were increased by 11.5% and 10.3%, respectively, compared to the control group (p = 0.0001). These findings suggest that chronic occupational exposure to TRAP is associated with increased CIMT in traffic police. This is important since even small increases in arterial thickening over time may promote earlier progression to clinical disease and increased premature mortality risk.

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