Scientists have been aware of a connection between pollution and inflammation in the body for some time; new research involving members of the trucking industry shows that short-term exposure to inhaled truck exhaust increases oxidative stress.
In an article published December 7, 2013, in the journal Environmental Health, Dr. Andreas Neophytu of the Harvard School of Public Health -- along with his colleagues -- writes that high weekly average exposures of fine particulate matter are linked with elevated levels of oxidative stress, and that high weekly average exposures of organic carbon are linked with elevated interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels. Oxidative stress is a "contributing factor in aging and in various forms of pathophysiology associated with aging," according to scientists writing in Molecular Aspects of Medicine. IL-6 is a pro-inflammatory cytokine released by T-cells and macrophages in response to stressors such as infection and trauma. Chronically high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines can put one's health at risk, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The truckers studied by Dr. Neophytu and his colleagues were based at ten different locations in the northeastern United States, in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The researchers write, "Overall, our findings suggest average ... but not daily effects of traffic-related exposures on biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation." Although modern emissions standards have reduced the overall level of exposure to particulate matter in truck exhaust, particulate matter and organic carbon are still potential health hazards for this chronically exposed population.