Practical approaches to protect individuals from ambient particulate matter (PM) are urgently needed in developing countries. Evidence on the health benefits of wearing particulate-filtering respirators is limited.
We evaluated the short-term cardiovascular health effects of wearing respirators in China.
A randomized crossover trial was performed in 24 healthy young adults in Shanghai, China in 2014. The subjects were randomized into two groups and wore particulate-filtering respirators for 48 hr alternating with a 3-week washout interval. Heart rate variability (HRV) and ambulatory blood pressure (BP) were continuously monitored during the 2nd 24 hr in each intervention. Circulating biomarkers were measured at the end of each intervention. Linear mixed-effect models were applied to evaluate the effects of wearing respirators on health outcomes.
During the intervention periods, the mean daily average concentration of PM with an aerodynamic diameter < 2.5 μm (PM2.5) was 74.2 μg/m3. Compared with the absence of respirators, wearing respirators was associated with a decrease of 2.7 mmHg [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.1, 5.2 mmHg] in systolic BP and increases of HRV parameters, including 12.5% (95% CI: 3.8%, 21.2%) in high frequency (HF) power, 10.9% (95% CI: 1.8%, 20.0%) in the root mean square of the successive differences, and 22.1% (95% CI: 3.6%, 40.7%) in the percentage of normal RR intervals with duration > 50 msec different from the previous normal RR interval (pNN50). The presence of respirators was also associated with a decrease of 7.8% (95% CI: 3.5%, 12.1%) in the ratio of low frequency (LF)/HF power.
Short-term wearing of particulate-filtering respirators may produce cardiovascular benefits by improving autonomic nervous function and reducing BP.