Long-Term Exposure to Air Pollution and Risk of Acute Lower Respiratory Infections in the Danish Nurse Cohort

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RATIONALE: Air pollution is a major risk factor for chronic cardiorespiratory diseases, affecting both the immune and respiratory systems' functionality, while the epidemiological evidence on respiratory infections remains sparse.

OBJECTIVE: We aimed to assess the association of long-term exposure to ambient air pollution with risk of developing new and recurrent ALRIs that characterized by persistently severe symptoms necessitating hospital contact, and identify the potential susceptible populations by socio-economic status (SES), smoking, physical activity status, overweight, and co-morbidity with chronic lung disease.

METHODS: We followed 23,912 female nurses from the Danish Nurse Cohort (> 44 years) from baseline (1993 or 1999) until 2018 for the incident and recurrent ALRIs defined by hospital contact (in-, outpatient, and emergency room) data from the National Patient Register. Residential annual mean concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and black carbon (BC) were modelled using Danish DEHM/UBM/AirGIS system. We used marginal Cox models with time-varying exposures to assess the association of 3-year running-mean air pollution with incident and recurrent ALRIs and examine effect modification by age, socio-economic status (SES), smoking, physical activity, body mass index, and comorbidity with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

RESULTS: During a 21.3 years mean follow-up, 4,746 ALRIs were observed, of which 2,553 were incident. We observed strong positive associations of all three pollutants with incident ALRIs, with hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals of 1.19 (1.08-1.31) per 2.5 µg/m3 for PM2.5, 1.17 (1.11-1.24) per 8.0 µg/m3 for NO2, and 1.09 (1.05-1.12) per 0.3 µg/m3 for BC, and slightly stronger associations with recurrent ALRIs. Associations were strongest in COPD patients and nurses with low physical activity.

CONCLUSION: Long-term exposure to air pollution at low levels was associated with risk of new and recurrent ALRIs, with COPD patients and physically inactive subjects most vulnerable. Primary Source of Funding: This study was supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation Challenge Programme (NNF17OC0027812).

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2024

ID: 389405753