Cardiovascular effects of inhaled diesel exhaust in spontaneously hypertensive rats.
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Particulate matter air pollution is associated with increased cardiovascular mortality. The present study examined the cardiac effects of diesel exhaust exposure in spontaneously hypertensive rats. These rats (4 mo old, n = 6 males and 4-6 females/concentration) were exposed to one of five diesel exhaust levels (0, 30, 100, 300, and 1000 micrograms particles/m3) for 6 h per day for 7 d. Electrocardiographic measurements were obtained by radiotelemetry beginning 3 d prior to exposure and ending 4 d after exposure cessation. Control rats displayed a reduced daytime heart rate from the beginning of the protocol, whereas exposed rats maintained a significantly elevated heart rate throughout the exposure. Daytime heart rate values for male control rats averaged 265 +/- 5 beats/min (mean +/- standard error [SE]), whereas values for exposed rats averaged 290 +/- 7 beats/min. This difference persisted during the evenings of the exposure period but was not observed at any time during the preexposure or postexposure periods. The PQ interval, an index of atrioventricular node sensitivity, was significantly prolonged among exposed animals in a concentration-dependent manner. Increased heart rate with prolongation of the PQ interval may represent a substrate for ventricular arrhythmias. These results concur with previous reports suggesting that realistic exposure concentrations of air pollution affect the pacemaking system of rats.