Long-Term Exposure of Adults to Outdoor Air Pollution Is Associated with Increased Airway Obstruction and Higher Prevalence of Bronchial Hyperresponsiveness

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The authors studied the association between long-term exposure (i.e., > 10 y) to outdoor air pollution and the severity of obstructive pulmonary disease and prevalence of bronchial hyperreactivity to β2 agonists in two groups of adult patients who were of similar ages and who had similar smoking habits. The subjects lived in downtown districts or in the outer suburbs of Marseilles, the neighborhood that contained air samplers. The regions were similar with respect to sulfur dioxide levels, but levels of nitric oxides and particulate matter (10 millimeters or less) were higher in the downtown area than the suburbs. The authors assessed airway obstruction, as determined by a decrease in forced expiratory volume in 1 s, mean forced expiratory flow measured between 25% and 75% of vital capacity, and an elevated value of central airway resistance. The authors tested the changes in these variables induced by inhalation of a β2 agonist. Baseline lung function was altered more significantly in both male and female patients who lived in downtown Marseilles than in those who resided in the suburbs, and the differences persisted regardless of the season during which the study occurred. Prevalence of bronchial hyperreactivity and symptoms of asthma (but not of rhinitis) were higher in the downtown than suburban male subjects. The results of this study suggest that an association exists between actual environmental exposure to outdoor air pollution (i.e., nitrogen oxides and/or particulate matter of 10 millimeters or less) and respiratory effects in sensitive adults represented by patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma.

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