ABSTRACT: Concentrations of numerous ambient air pollutants have declined in recent years across the United States. Although it can be expected that reductions in air pollutants are associated with reductions in health effects, it is unclear whether this is actually the case. The purpose of this analysis was to compare the levels of and relationships between air pollutants and acute respiratory outpatient visits for two consecutive time periods totaling 53 mo. Air pollution data were collected at a centrally located monitor in Atlanta, GA, and include 24-hr averages of particulate matter (PM) less than 2.5 microm in aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5) and its components; coarse PM (PM10-2.5); PM less than 10 microm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10); oxygenated volatile organic compounds (OVOCs); 8-hr maximum ozone (O3); and 1-hr maximum nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). In addition, several metals and fractions of elemental carbon (EC) and organic carbon (OC) were investigated. Daily outpatient visit data were obtained from the electronic data warehouse of the Atlanta-based region of a nonprofit managed care organization. Poisson general linear modeling determined associations between daily levels of acute visits for four diagnosis groups (adult and child asthma, upper and lower respiratory infection) and air pollution measurements. Overall declining trends were observed in air pollutants and acute visits over the study period. Childhood asthma had the greatest number of significant associations with air pollutants, namely zinc and EC. The significant lag time between pollutant measurement and visit occurrence changed from 3-5 days in the first time period to 6-8 days in the later time period, but there was general consistency in several childhood asthma and pollutant associations over both time periods. The greatest evidence for a reduction in pollution being associated with an improvement in health response was for lower respiratory disease visits, but even in this case changes in other factors that influence health responses make it difficult to demonstrate that changes in pollutant levels influence health outcomes.
Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (1995) 02/2010; 60(2):163-75. · 1.52 Impact Factor