Ah HA! Ah, YES! Air pollution does
matter – finally a study proving it.
I like teaching hospitals – the attitude, the open and curious
mindset that the body is more than one organ and the friendly,
hospitable attitude of the medical professionals and employees is
key to a patients – THIS patient – sense of wellbeing..
One of the best teaching hospitals in the nation according to US
News and World Report is the University of Washington Medical
Center, right across the pond from us here in Kitsap County and
where I go for several medical conditions.
In all the years I’ve gone there and parked in the underground
parking garage, I’ve never had a reaction to the normal car
emissions. The air seems to flow and dissipate the normal car
smells. Not so at the UWMC’s Roosevelt Building 11.
Yesterday, I had an appointment at the UWMC’s Roosevelt Building
11 and for the first time did not park in the underground parking
but asked my husband to drop me off at the street level front
The past odor of the warm choking toxic stench in the
underground garage is so bad, my eyes water. My husband says
he has never noticed the poor air quality down there but I do.
What does an air quality test show? I called to ask.
I didn’t call to complain about the warm choking smother and
forced inhaled sting of the air toxins the first or even second
time we parked there – after all it IS underground parking.
When I did finally call and did get the right person to ask
when they had their last air quality check, I was politely told no
one else had ever complained about it but she would find out for
About a month later she called to tell me what I smell must be
from the helicopter landing emissions and that sometimes she even
smells it in her office.
Well, how about a better filter on the helicopter or the parking
garage to protect the people who park there AND work in the offices
who sometimes smell it…although once inside the building, I’ve
never smelled those toxins.
Air Pollution Exposure Increases Risk of Severe
ScienceDaily (Nov. 5, 2010) — Long term exposure to low-level
air pollution may increase the risk of severe chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD), according to researcher s in Denmark.
While acute exposure of several days to high level air pollution
was known to be a risk factor for exacerbation in pre-existing
COPD, until now there had been no studies linking long-term air
pollution exposure to the development or progression of the
The research was published online ahead of the print edition of
the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and
Critical Care Medicine.
“Our findings have significance on a number of levels,” said
lead researcher on the study, Zorana Andersen, Ph.D., post doctoral
fellow at the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology of the Danish Cancer
Society in Copenhagen. “Patients, primary care physicians,
pulmonologists and public health officials should all take not of
Dr. Andersen and colleagues used data from the Danish Diet,
Cancer, and Health Study, which consisted of more than 57,000
individuals between the ages of 50 and 64 who lived in Copenhagen
or Aarhus, the first and second largest cities in Denmark, between
1993 and 1997. A self-administered questionnaire provided data on
smoking, dietary habits, education, occupational history and
lifestyle. They then used the unique personal identifiers to link
the cohort to the Danish Hospital Discharge Register to identify
hospital admissions and discharges due to COPD, and estimated
pollution exposure by linking residential addresses to outdoor
levels of NO2 and NOx levels, which were used to approximate the
overall level of traffic-related pollutants since 1971. They looked
at exposures over 15-, 25- and 35-year periods to assess the effect
of different exposure lengths on COPD incidence. Data for more than
52,000 were available from the start 1971 to the end of follow-up
“We found significant positive associations between levels of
all air pollution proxies and COPD incidence,” said Dr. Andersen.
“When we adjusted for smoking status and other confounding factors,
the association remained significant, indicating that long-term
pollution exposure likely is a true risk factor for developing
These associations were slightly stronger for men, obese
patients and those eating less than 240 grams of fruit each day
(approximately eight ounces, or just more than a single serving).
But notably, the effect of air pollution on COPD was strongest in
people with pre-existing diabetes and asthma.
“These results are in agreement with those of other
cross-sectional studies on COPD and air pollution, and longitudinal
studies of air pollution and lung function, and strengthen the
conclusion that air pollution is a causal agent in development of
COPD,” said Dr. Andersen.
Because the study used hospital admissions for COPD to assess
incidence, it is likely that the true incidence was underestimated,
and that the cases represented severe COPD, as mild and moderate
COPD does not often require hospitalization. This means that the
reported increase in risk associated with air pollution is probably
an underestimate of the true increase in risk for COPD in general.
Furthermore, while smoking is known to be the primary cause of COPD
in developed countries, and majority of COPD cases were smokers or
previous smokers, the effect of pollution exposure was also
observed in the group of non-smokers. “This result refutes the
possibility that the observed effect of air pollution was due to
inadequate adjustment for smoking in our data and supports the idea
that air pollution affects COPD risk, irrespective of smoking
status,” said Dr. Andersen.
The enhanced association between increased risk of COPD and air
pollution in asthmatics and diabetics suggests the possibility of
an underlying link. “It is plausible that airflow obstruction and
hyper-responsiveness in people with asthma, or systemic
inflammation in people with diabetes, can lead to increased
susceptibility of the lung to air pollution, resulting in airway
inflammation and progression of COPD, but more research is needed
in this area.” said Dr. Andersen.
“In any case, sufficient data, including the results of this
study, provide evidence that traffic-related urban air pollution
contributes to the burden of COPD and that reductions in traffic
emissions would be beneficial to public health.”
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by
ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by American Thoracic
Society, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
1. Z. J. Andersen, M. Hvidberg, S. S. Jensen, M. Ketzel, S.
Loft, M. Sorensen, A. Tjonneland, K. Overvad, O. Raaschou-Nielsen.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Long-Term Exposure to
Traffic-Related Air Pollution: A Cohort Study. American Journal of
Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2010; DOI:
More later (part 1 of 3 photo story of one patients
Lymphedema) Sharon O’Hara