Ambient carbon monoxide associated with reduced risk of hospital admissions for respiratory tract infections

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2013 Nov 15;188(10):1240-5. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201304-0676OC.


Rationale: Recent experimental and clinical studies suggest that exogenous carbon monoxide (CO) at lower concentrations may have beneficial effects under certain circumstances, whereas population-based epidemiologic studies of environmentally relevant CO exposure generated mixed findings.

Objectives: To examine the acute effects of ambient CO on respiratory tract infection (RTI) hospitalizations.

Methods: A time series study was conducted. Daily emergency hospital admission and air pollution data in Hong Kong were collected from January 2001 to December 2007. Log-linear Poisson models were used to estimate the associations between daily hospital admissions for RTI and daily average concentrations of CO across three background air monitoring stations and three roadside stations, respectively, controlling for other traffic-related copollutants.

Measurements and main results: CO concentrations were low during the study period with a daily average of 0.6 ppm in background stations and 1.0 ppm in roadside stations. Negative associations were found between ambient CO concentrations and daily hospital admissions for RTI. One ppm increase in background CO at lag 0-2 days was associated with -5.7% (95% confidence interval, -9.2 to -2.1) change in RTI admissions from the whole population according to single-pollutant model; the negative association became stronger when nitrogen dioxide or particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter less than 10 μm was adjusted for in two-pollutant models. The negative association seemed to be stronger in the adults than in the children and elderly.

Conclusions: Short-term exposure to ambient CO was associated with decreased risk of hospital admissions for RTI, suggesting some acute protective effects of low ambient CO exposure on respiratory infection.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • Air Pollution* / analysis
  • Carbon Monoxide* / analysis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inhalation Exposure* / analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / etiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / prevention & control*
  • Risk
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants
  • Carbon Monoxide