Ambient Air Pollution and Clinical Implications for Susceptible Populations

Air pollution is associated with a diversity of health effects, and evidence for a causal relationship with specific diseases exists. Exposure to air pollution is ubiquitous and typically beyond the control of the individual; the resulting health burden for the population can be high. Disproportionate effects are seen in individuals who have increased susceptibility to air pollution owing to individual- or community-level characteristics. As studies grow increasingly sophisticated, the understanding of who comprises the susceptible population continuously expands. Characteristics of susceptibility include genetic predisposition; socioeconomic factors; life stage; the presence of pre-existing diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis; and the unique population of lung transplant recipients. This review explores how select populations, namely individuals with pre-existing pulmonary disease and those living in communities of low socioeconomic status, have an increased susceptibility to the health effects of ambient air pollution. Genetic susceptibility, though a fundamental determinant of risk, is beyond the scope of this review and is not discussed. Strategies designed to mitigate air pollution-related health effects are discussed using a framework that addresses pollution exposure at multiple levels-government, state, community, and the individual. Emission reduction strategies remain the basis for public health protection; however, ancillary harm reduction measures are explored that can be adopted by susceptible communities and individuals.

Authors: Hooper LG, Kaufman JD. ; Full Source: Annals of the American Thoracic Society. 2018 Apr;15(Supplement_2):S64-S68. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201707-574MG.