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Study of people exposed to air pollution shows greater impact on women than men – Scientific Inquirer

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The effects of inhaling diesel exhaust may be more severe for women than for men, according to new research to be presented at the European Respiratory Society’s international congress in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

The researchers looked for changes in people’s blood caused by exposure to diesel exhaust. In both women and men, they found changes in blood components associated with inflammation, infection, and cardiovascular disease, but they found more changes in women than in men.

The research was presented by Dr. Hemshekhar Mahadevappa of the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, and was a collaboration between two research groups led by Professor Nilofer Mukherjee of the University of Manitoba and Professor Chris Carlsten of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. . Dr. Mahadevappa told Congress: “We already know that there are gender differences in lung diseases such as asthma and respiratory infections. Our previous research has shown that inhaling diesel exhaust causes inflammation in the lungs and affects how the body fights respiratory infections. In this study, we wanted to detect any effects in the blood and how they differ between women and men.”


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Ten volunteers, five women and five men, who were all healthy non-smokers, participated in the study. Each volunteer spent four hours breathing filtered air and four hours breathing air containing diesel exhaust at three different concentrations – 20, 50 and 150 micrograms of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) per cubic meter – with a four-week break between each exposure. Current annual limit value for PM in the European Union2.5 is 25 micrograms per cubic meter, but much higher peaks are common in many cities.

The volunteers gave blood samples 24 hours after each exposure, and the researchers examined the volunteers’ plasma in detail. Plasma is the liquid component of blood that carries blood cells and hundreds of proteins and other molecules throughout the body. Using a well-established analysis technology called liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, the researchers looked for changes in the levels of various proteins after exposure to diesel exhaust and compared the changes in women and men.

Comparing plasma samples, the researchers found levels of 90 proteins that were distinctly different between female and male volunteers after exposure to diesel exhaust. Among the proteins that differed between women and men were some known to play roles in inflammation, injury repair, blood clotting, cardiovascular disease and the immune system. Some of these differences became more apparent when the volunteers were exposed to higher levels of diesel exhaust.

Professor Mukherjee explained: “These are preliminary findings, but they do show that exposure to diesel exhaust has different effects in women and men, and may suggest that air pollution is more dangerous for women than for men.

“This is important because respiratory conditions such as asthma are known to affect women and men differently, with women more likely to suffer from severe, untreatable asthma. So we need to know a lot more about how women and men respond to air pollution and what this means for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of respiratory diseases.”

The researchers plan to continue studying the functions of these proteins to better understand their role in the difference between female and male immune responses.

Professor Zorana Andersen of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, is the Chair of the Environment and Health Committee of the European Respiratory Society and was not involved in the study. She said: “We know that exposure to air pollution, particularly diesel exhaust, is a major risk factor for conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There is very little we can do to avoid polluted air, so we need governments to set and enforce limits on air pollutants.

“We also need to understand how and why air pollution contributes to poor health. This study provides some important information about how the body reacts to diesel exhaust and how it may differ in women and men.”

IMAGE CREDIT: NASA.


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