Population Health

September 24, 2019

Air pollution can accelerate lung disease as much as a pack a day of cigarettes

Image of Joel KaufmanA new study co-led by the University of Washington found that long-term exposure to major air pollutants, and especially ozone air pollution that is increasing with climate change, accelerates the progression of emphysema of the lung. Emphysema is a condition in which destruction of lung tissue leads to wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath, and increases the risk of death.

“We were surprised to see how strong air pollution’s impact was on the progression of emphysema on lung scans, in the same league as the effects of cigarette smoking, which is by far the best-known cause of emphysema,” said the study’s senior co-author, Dr. Joel Kaufman (pictured), UW professor of environmental and occupational health sciences and epidemiology in the School of Public Health.

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