Particulate matter air pollution, physical activity and systemic inflammation in Taiwanese adults

Zilong Zhang, Gerard Hoek, Ly yun Chang, Ta Chien Chan, Cui Guo, Yuan Chieh Chuang, Jimmy Chan, Changqing Lin, Wun Kai Jiang, Yuming Guo, Roel Vermeulen, Eng kiong Yeoh, Tony Tam, Alexis K.H. Lau, Sian Griffiths, Xiang Qian Lao

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46 Citations (Scopus)


Background The protective effects of physical activity (PA) against chronic disease can be partially ascribed to its anti-inflammatory effects. On the other hand, long-term exposure to particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 μm (PM2.5) may induce systemic inflammation. Objective To investigate the joint effects of habitual PA and long-term exposure to PM2.5 on systemic inflammation in a large cohort of Taiwanese adults. Methods We studied 359,067 adult participants from a cohort consisting of Taiwanese residents who participated in a standard medical examination program from 2001 to 2014. Peripheral white blood cell (WBC) and differential counts were measured as indicators of systemic inflammation. Two-year average concentration of PM2.5 was estimated at each participant's address using a satellite-based spatio-temporal model. Habitual PA level was assessed by questionnaire (inactive, low, moderate and high). Mixed-effects linear regression model was used to examine the associations of WBC counts with PM2.5 and PA. Results Compared with inactive participants, those with low, moderate or high PA levels had 0.36% [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.31%, 0.41%], 0.70% (95%CI: 0.65%, 0.76%) and 1.16% (95%CI: 1.11%, 1.22%) lower WBC counts, respectively, after adjusting for PM2.5 exposure and a wide range of confounders. Long-term PM2.5 exposure was associated with increased WBC counts at all PA levels. Analyses for differential counts generated similar results. No significant interaction was observed between PA and PM2.5 exposure (P for interaction = 0.59). Conclusions Habitual PA was associated with statistically significant lower markers of systemic inflammation across different levels of PM2.5. Effects of PA and PM2.5 exposure on systemic inflammation are independent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-47
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Particulate matter
  • Physical activity
  • Systemic inflammation
  • White blood cell

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