Air pollution linked with increased number of visits to ER for breathing problems
New United States research has found that rising levels of ozone and fine particulate pollution, also known as PM2.5, are linked with an increase in the number of people visiting emergency rooms (ER) with breathing problems.
Carried out by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the University of Nevada and the University of Emory, the new research is the largest U.S. study so far to investigate the effect of air pollution on the number of respiratory ER visits made by patients of all ages, including visits for asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and respiratory infections.
The researchers looked at the levels of the two pollutants in 869 counties in the week before a visit to ER for a breathing problem, with the study including nearly 40 million ER visits and representing 45 percent of the U.S. population.
Patients who attended ER were divided into three groups: children under the age of 19, adults under the age of 65 and adults over the age of 65.
The findings, published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, showed that there was an association between ozone levels and rates of respiratory ER visits, including visits for asthma, acute respiratory infections, COPD and pneumonia, among all age groups, with the strongest association found in adults under age 65.
Moreover, as the level of ozone increased, so did the rates of ER visits among all age groups.
The researchers also found an association between PM2.5, which are particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that can penetrate deeply into the respiratory tract, and respiratory ER visits among children and adults under the age of 65, with the strongest association among children.
Again, an increase is levels of PM2.5 was also linked with an increase in the rate of ER visits among both children and adults under 65.
“Previous studies of ER visits related to respiratory illness have shown that children are particularly susceptible to air pollution, but those studies were mostly confined to a single city,” said study author Dr. Heather M. Strosnider.
The authors also added that the findings support the Environmental Protection Agency’s “determination of a likely causal relationship between PM2.5 and respiratory effects and a causal relationship between ozone and respiratory effects.”
Ozone, the main ingredient of smog, and PM2.5 are two important forms of air pollution in the U.S. JB