The inflammatory bowel diseases and ambient air pollution: a novel association

Am J Gastroenterol. 2010 Nov;105(11):2412-9. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2010.252. Epub 2010 Jun 29.


Objectives: The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) emerged after industrialization. We studied whether ambient air pollution levels were associated with the incidence of IBD.

Methods: The health improvement network (THIN) database in the United Kingdom was used to identify incident cases of Crohn's disease (n=367) or ulcerative colitis (n=591), and age- and sex-matched controls. Conditional logistic regression analyses assessed whether IBD patients were more likely to live in areas of higher ambient concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO(2)), sulfur dioxide (SO(2)), and particulate matter <10 μm (PM(10)), as determined by using quintiles of concentrations, after adjusting for smoking, socioeconomic status, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and appendectomy. Stratified analyses investigated effects by age.

Results: Overall, NO(2), SO(2), and PM(10) were not associated with the risk of IBD. However, individuals ≤23 years were more likely to be diagnosed with Crohn's disease if they lived in regions with NO(2) concentrations within the upper three quintiles (odds ratio (OR)=2.31; 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.25-4.28), after adjusting for confounders. Among these Crohn's disease patients, the adjusted OR increased linearly across quintile levels for NO(2) (P=0.02). Crohn's disease patients aged 44-57 years were less likely to live in regions of higher NO(2) (OR=0.56; 95% CI=0.33-0.95) and PM(10) (OR=0.48; 95% CI=0.29-0.80). Ulcerative colitis patients ≤25 years (OR=2.00; 95% CI=1.08-3.72) were more likely to live in regions of higher SO(2); however, a dose-response effect was not observed.

Conclusions: On the whole, air pollution exposure was not associated with the incidence of IBD. However, residential exposures to SO(2) and NO(2) may increase the risk of early-onset ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, respectively. Future studies are needed to explore the age-specific effects of air pollution exposure on IBD risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollution*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / epidemiology*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / etiology*
  • Crohn Disease / epidemiology*
  • Crohn Disease / etiology*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk
  • Smoking
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom