Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Air pollution exposure increases cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and is a major global public health concern. OBJECTIVES: We investigated the benefits of reducing personal exposure to urban air pollution in patients with coronary heart disease. METHODS: In an open randomized crossover trial, 98 patients with coronary heart disease walked on a predefined route in central Beijing, China, under different conditions: once while using a highly efficient face mask, and once while not using the mask. Symptoms, exercise, personal air pollution exposure, blood pressure, heart rate, and 12-lead electrocardiography were monitored throughout the 24-hr study period. RESULTS: Ambient air pollutants were dominated by fine and ultrafine particulate matter (PM) that was present at high levels [74 μg/m³ for PM(2.5) (PM with aerodynamic diamater <2.5 µm)]. Consistent with traffic-derived sources, this PM contained organic carbon and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and was highly oxidizing, generating large amounts of free radicals. The face mask was well tolerated, and its use was associated with decreased self-reported symptoms and reduced maximal ST segment depression (-142 vs. -156 μV, p = 0.046) over the 24-hr period. When the face mask was used during the prescribed walk, mean arterial pressure was lower (93 ± 10 vs. 96 ± 10 mmHg, p = 0.025) and heart rate variability increased (high-frequency power: 54 vs. 40 msec², p = 0.005; high-frequency normalized power: 23.5 vs. 20.5 msec, p = 0.001; root mean square successive differences: 16.7 vs. 14.8 msec, p = 0.007). However, mask use did not appear to influence heart rate or energy expenditure. CONCLUSIONS: Reducing personal exposure to air pollution using a highly efficient face mask appeared to reduce symptoms and improve a range of cardiovascular health measures in patients with coronary heart disease. Such interventions to reduce personal exposure to PM air pollution have the potential to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events in this highly susceptible population.

Original publication




Journal article


Environ health perspect

Publication Date





367 - 372


Aged, Arrhythmias, Cardiac, Blood Pressure, Blood Pressure Monitoring, Ambulatory, China, Coronary Disease, Cross-Over Studies, Electrocardiography, Ambulatory, Female, Heart Rate, Humans, Incidence, Inhalation Exposure, Male, Middle Aged, Myocardial Ischemia, Particulate Matter, Prospective Studies, Urban Health