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Exposure to Air Pollution Increases Hospitalizations in COPD Patients

Short- and long-term exposure to air pollution in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other respiratory diseases can lead to increased risk of hospitalizations. That is according to “Acute and Chronic Effects of Particles on Hospital Admissions in New-England,” a study published in the journal PLos ONE on April 17, 2012.

While many studies have reporting significant associations between exposure to particle pollution, also known as particulate matter (PM), and hospital admissions, few have studied the effects of short-term exposure to these pollutants. In an effort to uncover the effects of both short- and long-term exposure to PM on hospital admissions, researchers used novel prediction models for exposure to air pollutants and compared to hospital admissions across New England for all residents aged 65 and older.

Regression analyses were compiled for various admission types, including all respiratory, cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke and diabetes. Daily admission counts in each zip code were regressed against short- and long-term PMexposure, temperature, socio-economic data and a spline of time to control for seasonal trends in baseline risk.

Researchers found that for every 10-µg/m3 increase in short-term exposure to particle pollution, hospital admissions increased by 70 percent. Further, for every 10-µg/m3 increase in long-term exposure, hospitalization increased by 4.22 percent. The study also linked particle pollution to reduced lung function, pulmonary inflammation and oxidative stress.

For people living with COPD, reducing exposure to air pollution is an important step in managing the disease. About.com - COPD suggests taking the following steps to limit exposure:

  • Pay attention to weather alerts and stay indoors when air quality is poor.
  • Use a particle mask to filter the air when time spent outdoors is unavoidable.
  • Reduce or eliminate exposure to fireplaces or wood-burning stoves.
  • Be proactive in improving your indoor air quality.
  • Avoid using gas-powered lawn or gardening equipment.
  • Avoid exposure to burning trash, leaves or other matter.
  • Plan your day so you take fewer trips in your car.

Click Here to Access the Full Study From the Journal PLoS ONE.

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