Ambient air pollution exposure and chronic bronchitis in the Lifelines cohort

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Few large studies have assessed the relationship of long-term ambient air pollution exposure with the prevalence and incidence of symptoms of chronic bronchitis and cough.


We leveraged Lifelines cohort data on 132 595 (baseline) and 65 009 (second assessment) participants linked to ambient air pollution estimates. Logistic regression models adjusted for sex, age, educational attainment, body mass index, smoking status, pack-years smoking and environmental tobacco smoke at home were used to assess associations of air pollution with prevalence and incidence of chronic bronchitis (winter cough and sputum almost daily for ≥3 months/year), chronic cough (winter cough almost daily for ≥3 months/year) and prevalence of cough and sputum symptoms, irrespective of duration.


Associations were seen for all pollutants for prevalent cough or sputum symptoms. However, for prevalent and incident chronic bronchitis, statistically significant associations were seen for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and black carbon (BC) but not for fine particulate matter (PM2.5). For prevalent chronic bronchitis, associations with NO2 showed OR: 1.05 (95% CI: 1.02 to 1.08) and with BC OR: 1.06 (95% CI: 1.03 to 1.09) expressed per IQR; corresponding results for incident chronic bronchitis were NO2 OR: 1.07 (95% CI: 1.02 to 1.13) and BC OR: 1.07 (95% CI: 1.02 to 1.13). In subgroup analyses, slightly stronger associations were observed among women, never smokers and younger individuals.


This is the largest analysis to date to examine cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between ambient air pollution and chronic bronchitis. NO2 and BC air pollution was associated with increased odds of prevalent and incident chronic bronchitis.

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