Aims

We investigated whether traffic-related air pollution and noise are associated with incident hypertension in European cohorts.

Methods and results

We included seven cohorts of the European study of cohorts for air pollution effects (ESCAPE). We modelled concentrations of particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter ≤2.5 µm (PM2.5), ≤10 µm (PM10), >2.5, and ≤10 µm (PMcoarse), soot (PM2.5 absorbance), and nitrogen oxides at the addresses of participants with land use regression. Residential exposure to traffic noise was modelled at the facade according to the EU Directive 2002/49/EC. We assessed hypertension as (i) self-reported and (ii) measured (systolic BP ≥ 140 mmHg or diastolic BP ≥ 90 mmHg or intake of BP lowering medication (BPLM). We used Poisson regression with robust variance estimation to analyse associations of traffic-related exposures with incidence of hypertension, controlling for relevant confounders, and combined the results from individual studies with random-effects meta-analysis.

Among 41 072 participants free of self-reported hypertension at baseline, 6207 (15.1%) incident cases occurred within 5–9 years of follow-up. Incidence of self-reported hypertension was positively associated with PM2.5 (relative risk (RR) 1.22 [95%-confidence interval (CI):1.08; 1.37] per 5 µg/m³) and PM2.5 absorbance (RR 1.13 [95% CI:1.02; 1.24] per 10 5m 1). These estimates decreased slightly upon adjustment for road traffic noise. Road traffic noise was weakly positively associated with the incidence of self-reported hypertension. Among 10 896 participants at risk, 3549 new cases of measured hypertension occurred. We found no clear associations with measured hypertension.

Conclusion

Long-term residential exposures to air pollution and noise are associated with increased incidence of self-reported hypertension.

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