Asthma and Air Quality


air qualityPurpose of review: There is evidence for an association between asthma and air pollutants, including ozone, NO2 and particulate matter. Since these pollutants are ubiquitous in the urban atmosphere and typically correlated with each other it has been difficult to ascertain the specific sources of air pollution responsible for the observed effects.

Similarly, uncertainty in determining a causal agent, or multiple agents, has complicated efforts to identify the mechanisms involved in pollution-mediated asthma events and whether air pollution may cause asthma as well as exacerbate preexisting cases.

Recent findings: Numerous studies have examined specific sources of air pollution and their relationship to asthma. This review summarizes recent work conducted, specifically, on traffic pollution and presents results that elucidate several plausible biological mechanisms for the observed effects.

Of note are studies linking susceptibility to several genetic polymorphisms. Together, these studies suggest that remaining uncertainties in the asthma-air pollution association may be addressed through enhanced assessment of both exposures and outcomes.

Summary: Air-pollution research is evolving rapidly; in the near future, clinicians and public health agencies may be able to use this new information to provide recommendations for asthmatics that go beyond only paying attention to the air-pollution forecast.

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