Ambient air pollution increases the risk of respiratory mortality; but evidence for impacts on lung function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is less well establish. However, the aim was to evaluate whether ambient air pollution; is associate with lung function and COPD; and explore potential vulnerability factors.

They use UK Biobank data on 3 03 887 individuals aged 40–69 years; with complete covariate data and valid lung function measures. In addition cross-sectional analyses examine associations of Land Use Regression-based estimates of particulate matter; (PM2.5, PM10 and PMcoarse) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations with forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC); the FEV1/FVC ratio, and COPD (FEV1/FVC <lower limit of normal).

Inflammation in the lung

However, COPD is a long-term condition link to reduce lung function that causes inflammation in the lungs; and a narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult. According to the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide; and the number of global COPD deaths are expect to increase over the next ten years.

But lung function normally declines as we age, but the new research publish in the European Respiratory Journal; suggests that air pollution may contribute to the ageing process; and adds to the evidence that breathing in polluted air harms the lungs.

Anna Hansell is Professor of Environmental Epidemiology in the Centre for Environmental Health; and Sustainability at the University of Leicester, UK; and was part of the research team. She said: “There are surprisingly few studies that look at how air pollution affects lung health. To try and address this, we assess more than 300,000 people using data from the UK Biobank; study to examine whether air pollution exposure was linked to changes in lung function; and whether it affected participants’ risk of developing COPD.”

Validated air pollution model

However, the researchers used a validated air pollution model to estimate the levels of pollution; that people exposed to at their homes when they enrolled in the UK Biobank study. But the types of pollutants the researchers investigated included particulate matter (PM10), fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2); which are produced by burning fossil fuels from car and other vehicle exhausts, power plants and industrial emissions.

However, participants answered detailed health questionnaires as part of the UK Biobank data collection; and lung function, measure using spirometry tests perform by medical professionals at Biobank assessment centers at enrollment between 2006 and 2010. Spirometry is a simple test used to help diagnose and monitor certain lung conditions; by measuring how much air can be breathed out in one forced breath.