Cardiopulmonary benefits of respirator intervention against near road ambient particulate matters in healthy young adults: A randomized, blinded, crossover, multi-city study

Wei Niu, Wanzhou Wang, Chen Huang, Zhihong Zhang, Le Ma, Rui Li, John Cherrie, Mark R. Miller, Miranda Loh, Jiahui Chen, Chun Lin, Shaowei Wu, Xinbiao Guo, Furong Deng

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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Wearing a respirator is generally the most convenient individual intervention against ambient particulate matter (PM), and therefore there has been considerable research into its effectiveness. However, the effects of respirator intervention under different PM concentration settings have been insufficiently elucidated. We conducted a randomized, blinded, crossover intervention study in four representative cities in China in which 128 healthy university students spent 2 h walking along a busy road wearing either a real or a sham respirator and then spent the next 5 h indoors away from traffic pollution. Lung function, blood pressure, and heart rate variability were continuously measured throughout the visit. Linear mixed-effect models were fitted to evaluate the protective effects of respirator intervention on the cardiopulmonary indicators. Results showed that the beneficial effects of respirator intervention were only occasionally significant at specific time points or in specific cities or in selected parameters. Overall, respirator intervention was associated with reduced SBP (6.2 vs. 11.5 mmHg compared to baseline, p < 0.05) and increased LF (44 vs. 35 ms2 compared to baseline, p < 0.05) over the 2-h walk, but no significant effects were found over the 7-h period. Respirators have significant effect modifications on the associations between PM2.5/PM10 and the cardiopulmonary indicators, but the directions of effects were inconsistent. The intercity difference in the effects of respirator intervention was found significant, with Taiyuan and Shanghai to be the two cities with lower personal PM concentrations but more pronounced benefits. In conclusion, reducing personal exposure to PM can have some beneficial effects in some scenarios. However, respirators may not provide sufficient protection from air pollution overall, and we should avoid over-reliance on respirators and accelerate efforts to reduce emissions of pollutants in the first place. Despite standardized procedures, we found inconsistency in results across cities, consistent with the previous literature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number136437
Issue numberPart 3
Early online date17 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Air pollution
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate variability
  • Lung function
  • Particulate matter
  • Respirator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • General Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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