File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Dr. Dany Doiron and his colleagues studied the exposure of more than 300,000 people in Europe to particulate matter, fine particles and nitrogen dioxide — substances that come mainly from emissions by cars and factories.

Air pollution ages lungs, increases risk of pulmonary disease: study

MONTREAL — Exposure to air pollution accelerates lung aging and increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, new research suggests.

Dr. Dany Doiron and his colleagues studied the exposure of more than 300,000 people in Europe to particulate matter, fine particles and nitrogen dioxide — substances that come mainly from emissions by cars and factories.

“We know that lung function normally declines as we age, but our study suggests that air pollution may contribute to the aging process and adds to the evidence that breathing in polluted air harms the lungs,” said Doiron, a researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

“We were surprised at the size of the association — so for each annual average exposure increase of five micrograms per cubic metre of fine particulates in the air that participants were exposed to at home, the associated reductions in lung functions were similar to the effect of two years of aging.”

Researchers considered a number of factors that could impact the health of their subjects’ lungs including age, sex, body mass index, income, education, employment, smoking and their exposure to second-hand smoke.

Such particulates are so thin that they can lodge deep in the lungs and contribute to chronic diseases. The World Health Organization recommends average annual concentrations of not more than 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

There was a 52 per cent increase in the odds of COPD for each five-micrograms-per-cubic-metre increase of fine particulate exposure, Doiron said.

COPD is a long-term condition linked to reduced lung function that causes inflammation in the lungs and a narrowing of airways making it difficult to breath. The study said it’s the third leading cause of death in the world and the numbers are expected to rise over the next decade.

Those from less affluent backgrounds seemed particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.

The study found the impact of pollution on lung function was twice as high among less fortunate participants, and their risk of COPD was three times greater.

“This is probably due to a number of factors, including a greater number of respiratory infections in children, poor housing and indoor air quality, and other conditions,” he said.

Those results are all the more concerning as the air quality was not measured in highly polluted cities like Delhi, Beijing or Jakarta.

“There have been significant reductions in lung function even at relatively low concentrations of … fine particles,” said Doiron.

“Our results underline the importance of taking more action to fight against air pollution in our cities.”

The study on European populations was one of the largest to date to examine the associations between air pollution exposure, lung function and COPD and gave researchers the statistical power to make the associations more precisely, Doiron said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cattle Show set to return to Stettler Jan. 31st and Feb. 1st

“Stettler, historically, has been a very strong cattle community. It was a real hub for the cattle industry.”

Quebec MP Gerard Deltell says non to Tory leadership

OTTAWA — Quebec MP Gerard Deltell says he’s decided not to enter… Continue reading

Studies question assumptions on industrial damage to Wood Buffalo park

New research suggests Canada’s largest national park is not drying out from… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: Look your best this year

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Jan. 22 Downtown House Senior Center (5414 43 St.) in Red Deer… Continue reading

SpaceX launches, destroys rocket in astronaut escape test

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX completed the last big test of its… Continue reading

Canada’s Jeff Smith wins way back to PDC pro darts tour via qualifying school

WIGAN, England — Canadian Jeff Smith has won his way back to… Continue reading

Skate Canada to wait on final decision for world championship team

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier headline the… Continue reading

Canadian golfer Lee finishes in fifth place at Singapore Open, Kuchar wins

SINGAPORE — Canadian golfer Richard T. Lee shot 1-over 71 on Sunday… Continue reading

Armed Forces being mobilized to help Eastern Newfoundland dig out

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The federal government is mobilizing the Armed Forces… Continue reading

Couple together for nearly 65 years die on the same day

ARNOLD, Mo. — A couple who had been together for nearly 65… Continue reading

Canadian airlines feel the pressure of flight-shaming and the ‘Greta effect’

MONTREAL — Swedish may not be the lingua franca of the aviation… Continue reading

Most Read