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Oxidative burden of fine particulate air pollution and risk of cause-specific mortality in the Canadian Census Health and Environment Cohort (CanCHEC)

Author: Scott Weichenthal, Daniel L. Crouse, Lauren Pinault, Krystal Godri-Pollitt, Eric Lavigne, Greg Evans, Aaron van Donkelaar, Randall V. Martin, Rick T. Burnett
Year: 2016
Category: Health Publications

Read the journal article in Science Direct


Fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) is known to contribute to cardiorespiratory mortality but it is not clear how PM2.5 oxidative burden (i.e. the ability of PM2.5 to cause oxidative stress) may influence long-term mortality risk.


We examined the relationship between PM2.5 oxidative burden and cause-specific mortality in Ontario, Canada. Integrated PM2.5 samples were collected from 30 provincial monitoring sites between 2012 and 2013. The oxidative potential (% depletion/µg) of regional PM2.5 was measured as the ability of filter extracts to deplete antioxidants (glutathione and ascorbate) in a synthetic respiratory tract lining fluid. PM2.5 oxidative burden was calculated as the product of PM2.5 mass concentrations and regional estimates of oxidative potential. In total, this study included 193,300 people who completed the Canadian long-form census in 1991 and who lived within 5 km of a site where oxidative potential was measured. Deaths occurring between 1991 and 2009 were identified through record linkages and Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate hazard ratios (and 95% confidence intervals) for interquartile changes in exposure adjusting for individual-level covariates and indirect-adjustment for smoking and obesity.


Glutathione-related oxidative burden was associated with cause-specific mortality. For lung cancer specifically, this metric was associated with a 12% (95% CI: 5.0–19) increased risk of mortality whereas a 5.0% (95% CI: 0.1, 10) increase was observed for PM2.5. Indirect adjustment for smoking and obesity decreased the lung cancer hazard ratio for glutathione-related oxidative burden but it remained significantly elevated (HR=1.07, 95% CI: 1.005, 1.146). Ascorbate-related oxidative burden was not associated with mortality.


Our findings suggest that glutathione-related oxidative burden may be more strongly associated with lung cancer mortality than PM2.5 mass concentrations.