Release Date: August 13, 2019
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Air pollution, especially ozone air pollution that’s increasing with climate change, accelerates the progression of emphysema of the lung, according to a new study led by the University of Washington, Columbia University and the University at Buffalo.
While previous studies have shown a clear connection of air pollutants with some heart and lung diseases, the new research, published today (Aug. 13) in JAMA, demonstrates an association between long-term exposure to all major air pollutants — especially ozone — with an increase in emphysema seen on lung scans.
Emphysema is a condition in which destruction of lung tissue leads to wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath, and increases the risk of death.
The results are based on an extensive, 18-year study involving more than 7,000 people and a detailed examination of the air pollution they encountered between 2000 and 2018 in six metropolitan regions across the U.S.: Chicago; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Baltimore; Los Angeles; St. Paul, Minnesota; and New York City. The participants were drawn from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) Air and Lung studies.
“To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study to assess the association between long-term exposure to air pollutants and progression of percent emphysema in a large, community-based, multi-ethnic cohort,” said study first author Meng Wang, an assistant professor of epidemiology and environmental health in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Wang is also a faculty member in the UB RENEW (Research and Education in eNergy, Environment and Water) Institute.
Wang conducted the research as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington.
“We were surprised to see how strong air pollution’s impact was on the progression of emphysema on lung scans, in the same league as the effects of cigarette smoking, which is by far the best-known cause of emphysema,” said the study’s senior co-author, Joel Kaufman, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences in the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.
Ambient ozone levels that were 3 parts per billion higher where study participants lived compared to another location over a period of 10 years were associated with an increase in emphysema roughly the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 29 years.
And the study determined that ozone levels in some major U.S. cities are increasing by that amount, due in part to climate change. The annual averages of ozone levels in study areas were between about 10 and 25 ppb.
“Rates of chronic lung disease in this country are going up and increasingly it is recognized that this disease occurs in nonsmokers,” said Kaufman. “We really need to understand what’s causing chronic lung disease, and it appears that air pollution exposures that are common and hard to avoid might be a major contributor.”
Researchers developed novel and accurate exposure assessment methods for air pollution levels at the homes of study participants, collecting detailed measurement of exposures over years in these metropolitan regions, and measurements at the homes of many of the participants.
While most of the airborne pollutants are in decline because of successful efforts to reduce them, ozone has been increasing, the study found. Ground-level ozone is mostly produced when ultraviolet light reacts with pollutants from fossil fuels.
“This is a big study with state-of-the-art analysis of more than 15,000 CT scans repeated on thousands of people over as long as 18 years. These findings matter since ground-level ozone levels are rising, and the amount of emphysema on CT scans predicts hospitalization from and deaths due to chronic lung disease,” said R. Graham Barr, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University and the paper’s senior author.
“As temperatures rise with climate change, ground-level ozone will continue to increase unless steps are taken to reduce this pollutant. But it’s not clear what level of the air pollutants, if any, is safe for human health,” Barr said.
Emphysema was measured from CT scans that identify holes in the small air sacs of the participants' lungs, and lung function tests, which measure the speed and amount of air breathed in and out.
Danise C. Wilson, MPH '14
has been elected chair of SUNY Erie Community College's Board of Trustees through 2022. She is executive director of the Erie Niagara Area Health Education Center. In a statement released by SUNY Erie, Wilson said she was honored to accept the board chairperson's role at the community college. "I am incredibly grateful to outgoing Chairman Lenihan for his stewardship on behalf of our students and I look forward to working with the entire Board and the College’s Administration as we continue to expand our services to provide a positive impact on current and future students," Wilson said.
Catherine Callahan, PhD '16
(epidemiology), recently published a co-first author article in the Journal of National Cancer Institute titled “Serum concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and risk of renal cell carcinoma.” Co-authored with Joseph J. Shearer, the article covers highly exposed individuals that have an association with PFOA and kidney cancer. Callahan is a molecular epidemiologist who focuses on environmental and occupational exposures. She is currently doing research based on etiologic studies of kidney cancer and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She worked at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a postdoctoral fellow for a little over two years after her graduation.
Summer Davis, MS '20
(occupational therapy), was selected by the Alpha Eta Society (the national honor society for allied health professionals) to receive the Exceptional Professional Service Award. She was recognized at Alpha Eta’s annual meeting in October 2020. The award is given to students who have an exceptional record of professional service and demonstrate this within and beyond their study program. Awarded students demonstrate this capability beyond their institution's confines while maintaining a leadership position in professional societies. Davis was president of UB’s Phi Theta Epsilon-Tau chapter of the National Occupational Therapy Honor Society. She held the position while managing different job experiences in her field, along with volunteer hours and licensing/certification classes.
Tyler Farnell, MS '20
(athletic training), is working as an injury prevention specialist through ProActive Works at four quarries owned by Tilcon. His duties include promoting wellness, performing ergonomic observations, and completing documentation with the goal of providing early intervention that can prevent minor injuries from getting worse, become work-related, or result in a loss of time from work. During Farnell’s time at UB, he furthered his experience by shadowing an athletic trainer for the UB Men's Hockey team, maintaining a number of licenses and certifications that fit his career path.
Marcelo Araujo, PhD '03
recently published a report in "The Journal of the American Dental Association" titled "Estimating COVID-19 prevalence and infection control practices among US dentists." The report finds the COVID-19 rate among dentists is less than one percent, although they were assumed to be at high risk. Ninety-nine percent of dentists are using enhanced infection control procedures. The research shows that dentists’ strategies of using heightened infection control and increased attention to patient and dental-team safety, works. Araujo was appointed chief executive officer for the American Dental Association Science and Research Institute in 2019. He leads a team helping advance dental research and impact dentists and patients' lives.
Dana Grady (Luther), MS '11
(occupational therapy), an occupational therapist at St. Peter's Hospital, recently implemented a new post-cardiac surgery program called "Keep Your Move in the Tube, developed by Baylor University. After completing research to compare the old strict sternal precautions to this new program to determine efficacy and safety, cardiac surgeons decided to move forward with this new, less restrictive post sternotomy program for all heart surgery patients. She also published an article, "The Impact of a Less Restrictive Poststernotomy Activity Protocol Compared With Standard Sternal Precautions in Patients Following Cardiac Surgery," which furthered the study of the program of the program.
Jane Moore, BS '93
(occupational therapy), created a comprehensive feeding program in collaboration with GI, nutritionists, behavior therapists and occupational therapists that specialize in feeding. Moore also created and implemented a training program for OTs who want to specialize in feeding, which assists them in obtaining their advanced license in California. The feeding program offers one-on-one intervention and feeding groups, working with infants and children with various feeding delays, including g-tube, trach, reflux, oral motor, and sensory issues. Moore has been a clinical director and feeding program supervisor for over five years, assessing, evaluating and providing OT therapy intervention for children with various diagnoses.