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Diesel exhaust but not ozone increases fraction of exhaled nitric oxide in a randomized controlled experimental exposure study of healthy human subjects

Stefan Barath1, Nicholas L Mills2, Ellinor Ädelroth1, Anna-Carin Olin3 and Anders Blomberg1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Division of Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden

2 BHF/University Centre for Cardiovascular Science, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, UK

3 Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden

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Environmental Health 2013, 12:36  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-12-36

Published: 20 April 2013



Fraction of exhaled nitric oxide (FENO) is a promising non-invasive index of airway inflammation that may be used to assess respiratory effects of air pollution. We evaluated FENO as a measure of airway inflammation after controlled exposure to diesel exhaust or ozone.


Healthy volunteers were exposed to either diesel exhaust (particle concentration 300 μg/m3) and filtered air for one hour, or ozone (300 ppb) and filtered air for 75 minutes. FENO was measured in duplicate at expiratory flow rates of 10, 50, 100 and 270 mL/s before, 6 and 24 hours after each exposure.


Exposure to diesel exhaust increased FENO at 6 hours compared with air at expiratory flow rates of 10 mL/s (p = 0.01) and at 50 mL/s (p = 0.011), but FENO did not differ significantly at higher flow rates. Increases in FENO following diesel exhaust were attenuated at 24 hours. Ozone did not affect FENO at any flow rate or time point.


Exposure to diesel exhaust, but not ozone, increased FENO concentrations in healthy subjects. Differences in the induction of airway inflammation may explain divergent responses to diesel exhaust and ozone, with implications for the use of FENO as an index of exposure to air pollution.

Air pollution; Particulate matter pollution; Airway inflammation