[Purpose] To examine the long-term effects of air pollution on the physical functioning of a group of officially acknowledged victims of pollution-related illnesses (Victims group) who were exposed to air pollution more than 50 years ago, we compared them with age-matched patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD group). [Subjects and Methods] The Victims group comprised 34 subjects and the COPD group 24, all of whom were aged over 65 years. Respiratory function, muscle strength, exercise capacity and physical activity were measured and compared between the groups. [Results] The Victims group had significantly higher forced expiratory volume in the first second (FEV1), proportion of predicted FEV1, proportion of predicted vital capacity (VC), and ratio of FEV1 to forced VC than the COPD group. Surprisingly, the muscle strength of the Victims group was significantly weaker, their incremental shuttle walking test distance was significantly shorter, and their physical activity was significantly less than those of the COPD group. [Conclusion] Although the pulmonary function of Victims was better than that of the COPD group, their physical functioning was worse. Exposure to air pollution 50 years ago appears to continue to adversely affect their physical function. It is particularly important to offer Victims rehabilitation to improve their exercise performance and physical activity.
Keywords: Exercise capacity; Physical activity; Pollution-related disease.