Air Pollution's Effect on Asthma

Particles in the air may affect asthma rates

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Air pollution is a concern for many but its effects on lung health is unknown. A new study sheds light on how what is in the air may affect the number of people with asthma or poor lung health.

Air pollution does have an effect on lung health, including asthma, but it may not be as severe as some expect, according to a new study.

While air pollution and the particles in the air may affect asthma rates, the effect of air pollution differs by race. African-Americans are more likely to have poorer lung health due to air pollution than Whites or Hispanics.

"Ask your doctor about ways to improve lung health."

The study was led by Keeve E. Nachman, Ph.D., M.H.S., from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Average air particulate concentrations were determined using data collected by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Close to 110,000 participants of the National Health Interview Survey from 2002-2005 were then linked to the EPA data on air pollution.

The participants of the survey had answered questions about respiratory health, including asthma and recent asthma attacks, sinus infections and chronic bronchitis. Researchers also grouped the individuals based on race.

Air pollution is more than just smog. There are tiny particles that an individual can breathe in on a daily basis. Be it pollen from grass or trees, car exhaust, dust from construction or just regular old household dust and pet dander, there are a lot of things in the air that could affect asthma rates and overall lung health.

Of the total number of participants, only 8,000 had asthma and only 4,000 had a recent asthma attack. Researchers believe an increase in air pollution exposure could not be associated with asthma. Air pollution was associated with the number of sinus infections reported by the participants. There was no association between air pollution exposure and chronic bronchitis.

While air pollution may not be associated with asthma in general, it was associated with asthma in African-Americans. Based on the data, African-Americans exposed to high levels of air pollution had a greater risk of asthma and asthma attacks. According to the researchers, African-Americans may have an increased sensitivity to asthma and asthma attacks due to air pollution.

There are many factors to consider in regards to how asthma develops. Allergies can cause asthma and children whose mothers have asthma are at a greater risk for developing asthma. Living in the city or working in an industrial environment can also play a role in lung health.

No funding information was reported.

This study was published in the April edition of Environmental Health

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 13, 2012
Last Updated:
April 14, 2012