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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

University at Buffalo: Study Suggests Air Pollution Can Accelerate Lung Disease as Much as A Pack of Cigarettes a Day

Air pollution, especially ozone air pollution that’s increasing with climate change, accelerates the progression of emphysema of the lung, according to a new study led by the University of Washington, Columbia University and the University at Buffalo.

While previous studies have shown a clear connection of air pollutants with some heart and lung diseases, the new research, published in JAMA, demonstrates an association between long-term exposure to all major air pollutants — especially ozone — with an increase in emphysema seen on lung scans.

Emphysema is a condition in which destruction of lung tissue leads to wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath, and increases the risk of death.

The results are based on an extensive, 18-year study involving more than 7,000 people and a detailed examination of the air pollution they encountered between 2000 and 2018 in six metropolitan regions across the U.S.: Chicago; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Baltimore; Los Angeles; St. Paul, Minnesota; and New York City. The participants were drawn from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) Air and Lung studies.

“To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study to assess the association between long-term exposure to air pollutants and progression of percent emphysema in a large, community-based, multi-ethnic cohort,” said study first author Dr. Meng Wang, an assistant professor of epidemiology and environmental health in University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions.

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