Ambient air pollution is associated with airway inflammation in older women: A nested cross-sectional analysis

Michael J. Abramson, Claudia Wigmann, Hicran Altug, Tamara Schikowski

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Background Air pollution is a risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Fraction of exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) could be a useful biomarker for health effects of air pollutants. However, there were limited data from older populations with higher prevalence of COPD and other inflammatory conditions. Methods We obtained data from the German Study on the influence of Air pollution on Lung function, Inflammation and Ageing. Spirometry and FeNO were measured by standard techniques. Air pollutant exposures were estimated following the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects protocols, and ozone (O 3) measured at the closest ground level monitoring station. Multiple linear regression models were fitted to FeNO with each pollutant separately and adjusted for potential confounders. Results In 236 women (mean age 74.6 years), geometric mean FeNO was 15.2ppb. Almost a third (n=71, 30.1%) of the women had some chronic inflammatory respiratory condition. A higher FeNO concentration was associated with exposures to fine particles (PM 2.5), PM 2.5absorbance and respirable particles (PM 10). There were no significant associations with PM coarse, NO 2, NO x, O 3 or length of major roads within a 1 km buffer. Restricting the analysis to participants with a chronic inflammatory respiratory condition, with or without impaired lung function produced similar findings. Adjusting for diabetes did not materially alter the findings. There were no significant interactions between individual pollutants and asthma or current smoking. Conclusions This study adds to the evidence to reduce ambient PM 2.5 concentrations as low as possible to protect the health of the general population.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000549
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Open Respiratory Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2020


  • COPD epidemiology
  • exhaled airway markers

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