Pulmonary health effects of air pollution

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2016 Mar;22(2):138-43. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0000000000000248.


Purpose of the review: Air pollution continues to be a major public health concern affecting nine out of 10 individuals living in urban areas worldwide. Exposure to air pollution is the ninth leading risk factor for cardiopulmonary mortality. The aim of this review is to examine the current literature for the most recent updates on health effects of specific air pollutants and their impact on asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and respiratory infection.

Recent findings: A total of 52 publications were reviewed to establish new insights as to how air pollution is associated with pulmonary morbidity and mortality. Considerable past evidence suggests that air pollution is an important factor that enhances pulmonary disease, while also causing greater harm in susceptible populations, such as children, the elderly, and those of low socio-economic status worldwide. Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and respiratory infections all seem to be exacerbated because of exposure to a variety of environmental air pollutants with the greatest effects because of particulate matter, ozone, and nitrogen oxides. New publications reviewed reaffirm these findings.

Summary: Continued vigilance will be essential to lessen the effects of air pollution on human health and pulmonary disease. Cooperation at a multinational level will be required on the part of governments, industry, energy-based enterprises, and the public working together to solve our air quality issues at the local, national, and global level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Risk Factors


  • Air Pollutants