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Peak expiratory flow, breath rate and blood pressure in adults with changes in particulate matter air pollution during the Beijing Olympics: A panel study



This study aims to examine whether changes in short-term exposures to particulate matter are associated with changes in lung function, breath rate, and blood pressure among healthy adults and whether smoking status modifies the association.


We took advantage of the artificially controlled changes in air pollution levels that occurred during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China and conducted a panel study of 201 Beijing residents. Data were collected before, during, and after the Olympics, respectively. Linear mixed-effect models and generalized estimating equation models were used to compare measurements of peak expiratory flow, breath rate and blood pressure across three time points.


The mean values of peak expiratory flow were 346.0 L/min, 399.3 L/min, and 364.1L/min over the three study periods. Peak expiratory flow levels increased in 78% of the participants when comparing the during- with pre- Olympics time points, while peak expiratory flow levels decreased in 80% of participants for the post- and during-Olympic periods comparison. In subgroup analyses comparing the during-Olympic to pre-Olympic time points, we found a larger percentage change in peak expiratory flow (+17%) among female, younger and non-smoking participants than among male, elderly and smoking participants (+12%). The percentage of participants with a fast breath rate (>20/min) changed from 9.7% to 4.9% to 30.1% among females, and from 7.9% to 2.6% to 27.3% among males over the three time points. The changes in blood pressure over the three study periods were not very clear, although there is an increase in diastolic pressure and a decrease in pulse pressure among males during the games.


The results suggest that exposure to different air pollution levels has significant effects on respiratory function. Smoking, age and gender appear to modify participants' biological response to changes in air quality.

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