Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive inflammatory condition of the airways, pulmonary vessels, and lung parenchyma, distinguished by airflow limitation that is not reversible. Cigarette smoking is responsible for the vast majority of COPD, but it does not explain the increasing prevalence worldwide. Occupational and environmental factors have harmful effects on the airway. Particulate pollutants, ozone (O3), and NO2 can all produce deleterious effects on the airways and are increasingly believed to play important roles. As with other conditions, COPD develops due to multiple causes, and genetic factors and the way they relate to environmental factors play an important role. Among these factors, exposure to high levels of ambient air pollution may lead to increased incidence rates of this type of illnesses, and it is also linked to exacerbations of chronic processes.
A considerable amount of epidemiological research has been conducted to investigate acute and chronic effects on health resulting from exposure to ambient air pollution, most of it focusing on the health effects of short-term fluctuations in ambient pollution levels. In contrast, evidence is not sufficient to prove a causal relationship between ambient air pollution and COPD.
Improving ambient air quality appears to be an effective intervention that could benefit the health of the general population. Determining the role played by retained PM in COPD lung inflammation could lead to novel therapeutic interventions in the future.
Keywords: Ambient pollution, COPD, environmental health, epidemiology, occupational disease, particulate pollutants.