A new research that will be presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Barcelona, Spain regarding females facing severe health issues by breathing diesel exhaust fumes and the effects are more concerning than in males. The researchers looked for changes in people’s blood brought about by exposure to diesel exhaust. In both females and males, they found changes in components of the blood-related inflammation, infection and cardiovascular disease, but they found higher changes in the females compared to males.
The research was presented by Dr Hemshekar Mahadevappa, from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada and was a collaboration between two research groups led by professor Chris Carlsten at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada and professor Neeloffer Mookherjee at the University of Manitoba. Dr Mahadevappa told Congress: “We already know that there are six differences in lung diseases such as asthma and respiratory infections. Our previous research showed that breathing diesel exhaust creates inflammation in the lungs and impacts how the body deals with respiratory infections. In this study. We wanted to look for any effects in the blood and how these differ in females and males.”
The study involved 10 volunteers, 5 female and 5 male, who are all healthy non-smokers. Each volunteer spent 4 hours breathing filtered air and 4 hours breathing air containing diesel exhaust fumes at three different concentrations of 20-50 and 150 micrograms of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) per cubic metre, with a 4-week break in between each exposure. (The current PM2.5 European Union annual limit is 25 micrograms per cubic metre.)
Volunteers donated blood samples 24 hours after each exposure and the researchers made a detailed report of the volunteer’s “blood plasma”. Plasma is the liquid component of the blood that carries blood cells as well as hundreds of proteins and other molecules around the body. By using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, a well-known analysis technology. The researcher looked for changes in the levels of different proteins following exposure to diesel exhaust and then compared the changes in females and males.
While comparing the plasma samples, the researcher found the level of 90 proteins that were different between female and male volunteers following exposure to diesel exhaust. The proteins that differed between females and males, were some that are known to play role in inflammation, danger repair, blood clotting, cardiovascular disease and the immune system. Some of the differences became clearer when volunteers were exposed to a higher level of diesel exhaust.
Professor Mookherjee explained: “These are preliminary findings, however, they show that exposure to diesel exhaust has different effects in female bodies compared to males and that could indicate that air pollution is more dangerous for females than males.
“This is important as respiratory diseases such as asthma are known to affect females and males differently, with females more likely to suffer severe asthma that does not respond to treatments. Therefore, we need to notice a lot more about how females and males respond to air pollution and what this means for preventing, diagnosing and treating their respiratory disease.”
The researchers continue studying the functions of these proteins to understand their role better in the difference between female and male immune responses.
Professor Zorana Andersen from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, is the chairperson of the European Respiratory Society Environment and Health Committee and was not involved in the research. She said “We know that exposure to air pollution, especially diesel exhaust, is a major risk factor in diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is very little we can do as individuals to avoid breathing polluted air, so we need governments to set and enforce limits on air pollutants.
She added, “We also need to understand how and why air pollution contributes to poor health. This study offers some important insight into how the body reacts to diesel exhaust and how that may differ between females and males.”