Air pollution is a well known public health problem that involves both long-term and acute effects. An outcome associated with traffic-related air pollution is respiratory illness. Many studies have described the relationship between asthmatic symptoms and traffic-related air pollution; however, few have investigated the potential of air pollution to cause asthma itself, especially among adults.
The overall aim of this thesis was to study the relationship between vehicle exhaust levels at home and the prevalence of self-reported annoyance and asthmatic symptoms, and the incidence of asthma and rhinitis. These relationships were evaluated using different indicators of exposure with a high spatial resolution.
Three different data sets were used for the four papers included in this thesis. The first paper (paper I) is based on a questionnaire that was sent to a random selection of the adult population within three Swedish cities (Gothenburg, Uppsala, and Umeå) as part of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency’s health-related environmental monitoring. The aim was to study the degree of self-reported annoyance and the prevalence of asthmatic symptoms in relation to the levels of vehicle exhaust outside the home. The level of exposure was described using modeled levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as the exposure indicator.
The second paper (paper II) is based on new asthma cases identified within the Obstructive Lung disease In Northern Sweden (OLIN) study, each with a matched referent. The aim of this study was to analyze if new cases of asthma had higher levels of vehicle exhaust outside the home compared to the population controls. Exposure was assessed using both measured levels of NO2 outside each home, and by summarizing the amount of traffic within a 200 metre buffer surrounding each participant’s home.
Papers III and IV were based on the Respiratory Health in Northern Europe (RHINE) Cohort, a prospective cohort of adults included in 1990 and followed up with in 1999. The proportion of new cases of asthma (papers III and IV) and rhinitis (paper IV) were identified based on the answers from the initial and follow-up questionnaires. In paper III, exposure was assessed by using meteorological dispersion models to calculate the levels of NO2 outside each home as an indicator of the levels of vehicle exhaust. As an alternative indicator, the distance from each participant’s home to the nearest major road was calculated using geographical information system (GIS) tools. The exposure assessment in paper IV was also based on meteorological dispersion models, but expressed the levels of vehicle exhaust as particle mass concentration.
The results show that the levels of vehicle exhaust outside the home are significantly correlated with the degree of self-reported annoyance and the prevalence of asthmatic symptoms, and also with the risk of developing asthma, but not rhinitis, among adults. The odds ratio (OR) for high annoyance to vehicle exhaust and reporting asthmatic symptoms was 1.14 (95% Confidence Interval, CI 1.11-1.18) and 1.04 (95% CI 1.01-1.07) per 1 µg/m3 increase in the NO2 level outside the home, respectively. Paper II showed there was a non-significant tendency for increased risk of developing asthma among those living with high levels of vehicle exhaust outside their home. This finding was then supported by papers III and IV, showing a significant relationship between the onset of asthma and the mean (winter) levels of NO2 outside the home (OR=1.46, 95% CI 1.07-1.99 per 10 µg/m3) and the levels of vehicle exhaust particles outside the home. In paper III, living close to a major road was significantly related to the risk of developing asthma. No significant results were shown between vehicle exhaust and rhinitis.
In conclusion, vehicle exhaust outside the home is associated with the prevalence of annoyance and asthmatic symptoms, and with the risk of developing asthma, but not rhinitis, among adults.
Umeå: Folkhälsa och klinisk medicin , 2009. , 60 p.
2009-05-29, Major Groove, by 6L, Umeå Universitet (NUS), 901 87, Umeå, 13:00 (Swedish)