Long-term exposure to air pollution, coronary artery calcification, and carotid artery plaques in the population-based Swedish SCAPIS Gothenburg cohort


Long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with cardiovascular events. A main suggested mechanism is that air pollution accelerates the progression of atherosclerosis, yet current evidence is inconsistent regarding the association between air pollution and coronary artery and carotid artery atherosclerosis, which are well-established causes of myocardial infarction and stroke. We studied associations between low levels of long-term air pollution, coronary artery calcium (CAC) score, and the prevalence and area of carotid artery plaques, in a middle-aged population-based cohort. The Swedish CArdioPulmonary bioImage Study (SCAPIS) Gothenburg cohort was recruited during 2013-2017 and thoroughly examined for cardiovascular risk factors, including computed tomography of the heart and ultrasonography of the carotid arteries. In 5070 participants (age 50-64 years), yearly residential exposures to air pollution (PM2.5, PM10, PMcoarse, NOx, and exhaust-specific PM2.5 1990-2015) were estimated using high-resolution dispersion models. We used Poisson regression to examine associations between long-term (26 years’ mean) exposure to air pollutants and CAC score, and prevalence of carotid artery plaques, adjusted for potential confounders. Among participants with carotid artery plaques, we also examined the association with plaque area using linear regression. Mean exposure to PM2.5 was low by international standards (8.5 μg/m3). There were no consistent associations between long-term total PM2.5 exposure and CAC score or presence of carotid artery plaques, but an association between total PM2.5 and larger plaque area in participants with carotid plaques. Associations with traffic-related air pollutants were consistently positive for both a high CAC score and bilateral carotid artery plaques. These associations were independent of road traffic noise. We found stronger associations among men and participants with cardiovascular risk factors. The results lend some support to atherosclerosis as a main modifiable pathway between low levels of traffic-related ambient air pollution and cardiovascular disease, especially in vulnerable individuals.

Authors: Karl Kilbo Edlund, Gerd Sallsten, Peter Molnár, Eva M Andersson, Mikael Ögren, David Segersson, Erika Fagman, Björn Fagerberg, Lars Barregard, Göran Bergström, Leo Stockfelt
; Full Source: Environmental research 2022 Jul 19;113926. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2022.113926.