Influence of environmental exposures on patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Korea

Tuberc Respir Dis (Seoul). 2014 May;76(5):226-32. doi: 10.4046/trd.2014.76.5.226. Epub 2014 May 29.


Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by airflow limitation and results from environmental factors and genetic factors. Although cigarette smoking is a major risk factor, other environmental exposures can influence COPD. The purpose of this study is to investigate the clinical characteristics of COPD according to the history of environmental exposure.

Methods: The study population comprised of 347 subjects with COPD who were recruited from the pulmonary clinics of 14 hospitals within the Korean Obstructive Lung Disease Study Group. We classified environmental exposures according to history of living near factory, and direct exposure history to firewood or briquette. According to living environmental exposures, we compared the frequency of respiratory symptoms, pulmonary function, quality of life, exercise capacity, and computed tomography phenotypes.

Results: Thirty-one subjects (8.9%) had history of living near factory, 271 (78.3%) had exposure history to briquette, and 184 (53.3%) had exposure history to firewood. Patients with history of living near a factory had a significantly longer duration of sputum, while patients with exposure to firewood tended to have lower forced expiratory volume in one second, and patients with exposure to briquette tended to have lower six minute walk distance.

Conclusion: COPD subjects with the history of living near factory had more frequent respiratory symptoms such as sputum. Our data suggest that environmental exposure may influence clinical phenotype of COPD.

Keywords: Air Pollutants; Environmental Exposure; Fossil Fuels; Occupational Exposure; Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive.