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Circulation. 2019 Dec 10;140(24):1995-2004. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.119.042054. Epub 2019 Nov 20.

Pro-Oxidative and Proinflammatory Effects After Traveling From Los Angeles to Beijing: A Biomarker-Based Natural Experiment.

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Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Jonathan and Karin Fielding School of Public Health (Y.L., Y.Z., M.J., J.A.A.).
Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine (G.R., F.Y., N.D.R., C.-H.T., J.A.A.).
State Key Joint Laboratory for Environmental Simulation and Pollution Control, College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, and Center for Environment and Health, Peking University, Beijing, People's Republic of China (X.L., T.Z., X.Q.).
Pasarow Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California - Los Angeles (K.F.F., A.J.Y.), University of California - Los Angeles.
Molecular Biology Institute (J.A.A.).



Exposure to air pollution increases cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Preventing chronic cardiovascular diseases caused by air pollution relies on detecting the early effects of pollutants on the risk of cardiovascular disease development, which is limited by the lack of sensitive biomarkers. We have previously identified promising biomarkers in experimental animals but comparable evidence in humans is lacking.


Air pollution is substantially worse in Beijing than in Los Angeles. We collected urine and blood samples from 26 nonsmoking, healthy adult residents of Los Angeles (mean age, 23.8 years; 14 women) before, during, and after spending 10 weeks in Beijing during the summers of 2014 and 2015. We assessed a panel of circulating biomarkers indicative of lipid peroxidation and inflammation. Personal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a group of combustion-originated air pollutants, was assessed by urinary PAH metabolite levels.


Urinary concentrations of 4 PAH metabolites were 176% (95% CI, 103% to 276%) to 800% (95% CI, 509% to 1780%) greater in Beijing than in Los Angeles. Concentrations of 6 lipid peroxidation biomarkers were also increased in Beijing, among which 5-, 12-, and 15-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid and 9- and 13-hydroxyoctadecadienoic acid levels reached statistical significance (false discovery rate <5%), but not 8-isoprostane (20.8%; 95% CI, -5.0% to 53.6%). The antioxidative activities of paraoxonase (-9.8%; 95% CI, -14.0% to -5.3%) and arylesterase (-14.5%; 95% CI, -22.3% to -5.8%) were lower and proinflammatory C-reactive protein (101%; 95% CI, 3.3% to 291%) and fibrinogen (48.3%; 95% CI, 4.9% to 110%) concentrations were higher in Beijing. Changes in all these biomarkers were reversed, at least partially, after study participants returned to Los Angeles. Changes in most outcomes were associated with urinary PAH metabolites (P<0.05).


Traveling from a less-polluted to a more-polluted city induces systemic pro-oxidative and proinflammatory effects. Changes in the levels of 5-, 12-, and 15-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid and 9- and 13-hydroxyoctadecadienoic acid as well as paraoxonase and arylesterase activities in the blood, in association with exposures to PAH metabolites, might have important implications in preventive medicine as indicators of increased cardiovascular risk caused by air pollution exposure.


air pollution; inflammation; lipid peroxidation; lipoxygenase; paraoxonase-1

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