Exposure to traffic-related particulate matter (PM) is considered a potential risk for cardiovascular events. Little is known about whether improving air quality in car can modify cardiovascular effects among human subjects during commuting. We recruited a panel of 60 healthy subjects to commute for 2h by a car equipped with an air conditioning (AC) system during the morning rush hour in Taipei. Operation modes of AC system using outside air (OA-mode), circulating inside air (IA-mode) and turning off (Off-mode) were examined. Repeated measurements of heart rate variability (HRV) indices, PM≤2.5μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5) and noise level were conducted for each participant in different modes during the commute. We used linear mixed-effects models to associate HRV indices with in-car PM2.5. We found that decreases in HRV indices were associated with increased levels of in-car PM2.5. For Off-mode, an interquartile range (IQR) increase in in-car PM2.5 with 15-min moving average was associated with 2.7% and 4.1% decreases in standard deviation of NN intervals (SDNN) and the square root of the mean of the sum of the squares of differences between adjacent NN intervals (r-MSSD), respectively. During OA and IA modes, participants showed slight decreases in SDNN (OA mode: 0.1%; IA mode: 1.3%) and r-MSSD (OA mode: 1.1%; IA mode: 1.8%) by an IQR increase in in-car PM2.5 with 15-min moving average. We concluded that in-car PM2.5 is associated with autonomic alteration. Utilization of the car's AC system can improve air quality and modify the effects of in-car PM2.5 on HRV indices among human subjects during the commute.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-313
Number of pages5
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2013


  • Air conditioning system
  • Car
  • Epidemiology
  • Heart rate variability
  • Indoor air pollution
  • Particulate matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • General Medicine


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