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Air Pollution and Illness: It’s Not Just the Lungs and Heart Anymore

— Expanding range of conditions caused or aggravated by fine particulates

by John Gever, Contributing Writer, MedPage Today June 1, 2022

COPENHAGEN — Exposure to small particulate matter, of the sort in tobacco smoke and industrial effluents, was associated with increased rates of immune-mediated diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Italian researchers found.

In areas where levels of PM10 (particulates smaller than 10 microns) regularly reached or exceeded 30 μg/m3, prevalence of seven autoimmune diseases was 12% greater than in areas with lower chronic exposures, reported Giovanni Adami, MD, PhD, of the University of Verona.

Prevalence of these conditions was also 13% higher in areas where levels of particulates smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) averaged 20 μg/m3 over long periods, Adami told attendees at the European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology’s (EULAR) annual meeting here.

He also noted a dose-response relationship, with each 10-μg/m3 increment in chronic exposure tied to a 7% higher risk for autoimmune diseases.

Prior research on air pollution naturally has focused on lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, although many studies have also found adverse cardiovascular risks. But asthma, of course, is also an autoimmune condition. Moreover, Adami’s group had previously identified associations between pollution levels and rheumatoid arthritis flares and weaker responses to biologic drugs for rheumatologic illnesses…

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