Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Ambient Air Pollution and Chronic Bronchitis in a Cohort of U.S. Women

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Ambient Air Pollution and Chronic Bronchitis in a Cohort of U.S. Women

Article excerpt


Chronic bronchitis is a common clinical condition defined by chronic cough and sputum production for at least 3 mo in 2 or more consecutive years (American Thoracic Society 1995). Prevalence estimates in the general population of adults range from 3.5 to 27% (Kim et al. 2011; Martinez et al. 2014; Montes De Oca et al. 2012). This wide range may reflect, in part, variability in case definitions. Chronic bronchitis is a phenotype of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (Kim and Criner 2013). Among persons with COPD, chronic bronchitis portends increased frequency and severity of exacerbations (Burgel et al. 2009; Kim et al. 2011). Among persons without COPD, chronic bronchitis symptoms predict an increased risk of developing COPD, lower health-related quality-of-life scores, and increased risk for all-cause mortality (de Marco et al. 2007; Guerra et al. 2009; Lindberg et al. 2005; Martinez et al. 2014).

Smoking is the primary risk factor for chronic bronchitis, but exposure to ambient air pollution may also contribute (Kim and Criner 2013). The relationship between short-term air pollution exposure and acute respiratory symptoms and hospitalizations is well established (Peacock et al. 2011; Peel et al. 2005; Sunyer 2001), but limited data suggest a relationship between long-term ambient pollution exposure and COPD (Schikowski et al. 2014). There is a paucity of data on the possible relationship between classically defined chronic bronchitis and long-term exposure to the criteria pollutants [PM.sub.2.5], [PM.sub.10] (particulate matter <2.5 [micro]m and <10 [micro]m in diameter, respectively), and nitrogen dioxide (N[O.sub.2]). The sparse existing data provide inconsistent support for an association between [PM.sub.10] and chronic cough and phlegm, and between N[O.sub.2] and chronic cough (Bentayeb et al. 2010b; Cai et al. 2014; Schikowski et al. 2005; Zemp et al. 1999).

To address these relationships in a larger study, using specific outcome definitions and advanced exposure assessments, we investigated the association between residential exposure to [PM.sub.2.5], [PM.sub.10], and N[O.sub.2] and both incident and prevalent chronic bronchitis in a prospective nationwide cohort of more than 50,000 U.S. women participating in the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Sister Study. We estimated exposure at individuals' residential addresses. Taking advantage of the comprehensive survey, we uniformly classified cases of chronic bronchitis using the classical clinical definition.


Study Population

The NIEHS Sister Study is a longitudinal cohort study of U.S. women with a sister diagnosed with breast cancer, but no personal breast cancer diagnosis at time of baseline interview (n = 50,884). Women were enrolled between August 2003 and March 2009, and completed a baseline computer-assisted telephone survey. Follow-up telephone surveys were performed every 2 to 3 y. We analyzed data through the second follow-up survey (data release 4, data available through August 2014). Baseline and follow-up surveys queried participants on a wide range of health diagnoses and symptoms.

Of the 50,884 women participating in the NIEHS Sister Study, 1,234 (2.4%) were excluded for missing exposure data due to residential locations outside the modeling region or addresses that could not be geocoded (Figure 1). After excluding those missing baseline data on cough and phlegm, 47,357 individuals remained for analysis of prevalent outcomes. Of the 45,955 participants without chronic bronchitis symptoms at baseline, 6,111 (12.3%) were missing data on cough or phlegm for at least one of the two follow-up questionnaires, leaving 39,844 individuals for analysis of incident outcomes.

The Institutional Review Boards of the University of Washington and the NIEHS approved this study; all participants provided written informed consent. …

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