Acute effects of air pollution on respiratory health of 50-70 yr old adults

S C van der Zee, G Hoek, Hendrika Boezen, Jan Schouten, J H van Wijnen, B Brunekreef

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The aim of this study was to investigate the association between daily changes in respiratory health and air pollution in 489 adults, aged 50-70 yrs, with and without chronic respiratory symptoms, living in urban and nonurban areas in the Netherlands.

Subjects were selected from the general population with a screening questionnaire. During three consecutive winters starting in 1992/1993, peak expiratory flow (PEF) and respiratory symptoms were registered in a daily diary. Daily measurements of particles with a 50% cut-off aerodynamic diameter of 10 mu m (PM10), black smoke (BS), sulphate, sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) were conducted. The difference in PM10, BS and sulphate concentrations between urban and nonurban areas was small, but there was more contrast in the concentrations of SO2 and NO2,

In symptomatic subjects from urban areas, PM10, BS, sulphate and SO2 concentrations were associated with the prevalence of large decrements in morning PEF (>20% below the median). BS in particular was also associated with upper respiratory symptoms (URS), The magnitude of the effect estimates was in the order of an 80% increase in PEF decrements and a 20% increase in URS for a 40 mu g.m(-3) increase of the same day BS concentration. In symptomatic subjects from nonurban areas, no consistent associations between air pollution and health indicators were observed. However, the differences in effect estimates between urban and nonurban symptomatic panels were small and nonsignificant. In nonsymptomatic adults from both areas, no consistent pattern of associations with air pollution was found.

In conclusion, air pollution effects were only found in symptomatic adults in the urban areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700-709
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2000


  • adults
  • air pollution
  • chronic respiratory symptoms
  • respiratory health

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