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Using community level strategies to reduce asthma attacks triggered by outdoor air pollution: a case crossover analysis

11 Jul 2014

Evidence indicates that asthma attacks can be triggered by exposure to ambient air pollutants, however, detailed pollution information is missing from asthma action plans. Asthma is commonly associated with four criteria pollutants with standards derived by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Since multiple pollutants trigger attacks and risks depend upon city-specific mixtures of pollutants, there is lack of specific guidance to reduce exposure. Until multi-pollutant statistical modeling fully addresses this gap, some guidance on pollutant attack risk is required. This study examines the risks from exposure to the asthma-related pollutants in a large metropolitan city and defines the city-specific association between attacks and pollutant mixtures. Our goal is that city-specific pollution risks be incorporated into individual asthma action plans as additional guidance to prevent attacks.
Case-crossover analysis and conditional logistic regression were used to measure the association between ozone, fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide pollution and 11,754 emergency medical service ambulance treated asthma attacks in Houston, Texas from 2004-2011. Both single and multi-pollutant models are presented.
In Houston, ozone and nitrogen dioxide are important triggers (RR = 1.05; 95% CI: 1.00, 1.09), (RR = 1.10; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.15) with 20 and 8 ppb increase in ozone and nitrogen dioxide, respectively, in a multi-pollutant model. Both pollutants are simultaneously high at certain times of the year. The risk attributed to these pollutants differs when they are considered together, especially as concentrations increase. Cumulative exposure for ozone (0-2 day lag) is of concern, whereas for nitrogen dioxide the concern is with single day exposure. Persons at highest risk are aged 46-66, African Americans, and males.
Accounting for cumulative and concomitant outdoor pollutant exposure is important to effectively attribute risk for triggering of an asthma attack, especially as concentrations increase. Improved asthma action plans for Houston individuals should warn of these pollutants, their trends, correlation and cumulative effects. Our Houston based study identifies nitrogen dioxide levels and the three-day exposure to ozone to be of concern whereas current single pollutant based national standards do not.

11 July 2014

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Environmental Health