The air quality health index and emergency department visits for urticaria in Windsor, Canada

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2015;78(8):524-33. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2014.991053.


Ambient air pollution exposure has been associated with several health conditions, limited not only to respiratory and cardiovascular systems but also to cutaneous tissues. However, few epidemiological studies examined pollution exposure on skin problems. Basically, the common mechanism by which pollution may affect skin physiology is by induction of oxidative stress and inflammation. Urticaria is among the skin pathologies that have been associated with pollution. Based on the combined effects of three ambient air pollutants, ozone (O₃), nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), and fine particulate matter (PM) with a median aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 μm (PM(2.5)), on mortality, the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) in Canada was developed. The aim of this study was to examine the associations of short-term changes in AQHI with emergency department (ED) visits for urticaria in Windsor-area hospitals in Canada. Diagnosed ED visits were retrieved from the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System (NACRS). A time-stratified case-crossover design was applied to 2905 ED visits (males = 1215; females = 1690) for urticaria from April 2004 through December 2010. Odds ratios (OR) and their corresponding 95% confidence intervals (95%CI) for ED visits associated with increase by one unit of risk index were calculated employing conditional logistic regression. Positive and significant results were observed between AQHI levels and OR for ED visits for urticaria in Windsor for lags 2 and 3 days. A distributed lag nonlinear model technique was applied to daily counts of ED visits for lags 0 to 10 and significant results were obtained from lag 2 to lag 5 and for lag 9. These findings demonstrated associations between ambient air pollution and urticarial confirming that air pollution affects skin conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Air Pollution / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Illness / chemically induced*
  • Environmental Illness / epidemiology
  • Environmental Illness / therapy
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / toxicity
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Oxidants, Photochemical / analysis
  • Oxidants, Photochemical / toxicity
  • Ozone / analysis
  • Ozone / toxicity
  • Particulate Matter / analysis
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity
  • Risk
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Urban Health*
  • Urticaria / chemically induced*
  • Urticaria / epidemiology
  • Urticaria / therapy


  • Air Pollutants
  • Oxidants, Photochemical
  • Particulate Matter
  • Ozone
  • Nitrogen Dioxide