Environmental air pollution has decremental effects on pulmonary function test parameters up to one week after exposure

Am J Med Sci. 2009 Oct;338(4):273-9. doi: 10.1097/MAJ.0b013e3181adb3ed.


Background: Recent exposure to air pollution has a decremental effect on pulmonary function. This short-term effect has only been studied for up to a few days postexposure. Our objective was to analyze the effect of air pollution on spirometric parameters in varying lag times of up to 1 week from the time of exposure.

Methods: Healthy subjects, never smokers, who were participants in the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center Inflammation Survey held between 2002 and 2007, were included if residing within an 11-km range to the nearest air pollution monitoring station. Linear regression models were applied to each lung function variable [first second of exhalation (FEV(1)), forced vital capacity (FVC), FEV(1)/FVC] against air pollutant variables (particulate matter under 10 microns in diameter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone) for increasing lag periods of up to 7 days, and they were adjusted for possible confounders that affect air pollution and spirometric measurements.

Results: The study population comprised 2380 individuals. We found a statistically significant negative correlation between air pollutants, mainly SO(2), and between FEV(1) and FVC. This effect was significant from days 3 to 6, with a maximal effect noted for the fifth day and for the 7-day average before pulmonary function measurement. No significant change was found for FEV(1)/FVC ratio.

Conclusions: Air pollution has a decremental effect on lung function parameters for up to 6 days after exposure in healthy adults. SO(2) emerged as the most significant air pollutant affecting short-term lung function parameters.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Climate
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Spirometry


  • Air Pollutants