Co-effects of Transportation Means and Air Quality on Neurological, Pulmonary, and Cardiovascular Function

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2021-04-15

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Abstract

The guidelines on outdoor activities in the presence of air pollution vary. We aim to find out the effects of walking and air pollution among young adults. We conducted a randomized, 3-session cross-over trial, with 28 healthy Duke Kunshan University (DKU) students. Between October 2020 and February 2021 on days with varying air quality levels, students walked or took the bus from DKU to Scholars Hotel in Kunshan, China. Indicators of neurological function (reaction speed, visual memory, verbal memory, and numerical memory), pulmonary function (PEF, FEV1 , FVC, and FEV1 / FVC), and cardiovascular function (systolic pressure, diastolic pressure, and heart rate) were tested before and after the interventions. The paired t-test findings revealed that walking was beneficial for pulmonary function, with an average PEF increase of 40.29 ± 84.87 L/min (p<0.05). On the other hand, air pollution decreased diastolic pressure by an average of -3.85 ± 5.30 mmHg (p<0.05) and numerical memory by an average of -2.27 ± 2.37 points (p<0.01). The regressions results showed that air pollution was associated with statistically significant decreases in cognitive and pulmonary function. An increase in PM 2.5 (1 µg/m3 ) was associated with decreased numerical memory (-2.32 points; p<0.05) and a unit increase in AQI was correlated with decreased FEV 1 (-6.71 L; p<0.05). On the co-effects of walking and air pollution, our evidence was inconclusive. Walking outdoors during air polluted days may negatively affect pulmonary functions and neurological functions, while its effect on cardiovascular functions is not clear. Being cautious, individuals may refrain from exercising in air polluted environments to avoid potential negative health impacts. Nonetheless, we are unable to make strong inferences towards such behavioral recommendations due to the limited effect size.

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Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.