Air pollution and hospital admissions for respiratory conditions in Rome, Italy

D Fusco, F Forastiere, P Michelozzi, T Spadea, B Ostro, M Arcà, C A Perucci
European Respiratory Journal 2001, 17 (6): 1143-50
Most of the evidence regarding the association between particulate air pollution and emergency room visits or hospital admissions for respiratory conditions and asthma comes from the USA. European time-series analyses have suggested that gaseous air pollutants are important determinants of acute hospitalization for respiratory conditions, at least as important as particulate mass. The association between daily mean levels of suspended particles and gaseous pollutants (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone) was examined. The daily emergency hospital admissions for respiratory conditions in the metropolitan area of Rome during 1995-1997 were also recorded. Daily counts of hospital admissions for total respiratory conditions (43 admissions day(-1)), acute respiratory infections including pneumonia (18 day(-1)), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (13 day(-1)), and asthma (4.5 day(-1)) among residents of all ages and among children (0-14 yrs) were analysed. The generalized additive models included spline smooth functions of the day of study, mean temperature, mean humidity, influenza epidemics, and indicator variables for day of the week and holidays. Total respiratory admissions were significantly associated with same-day level of NO2 (2.5% increase per interquartile range (IQR) change, 22.3 microg x m(-3)) and CO (2.8% increase per IQR, 1.5 mg x m(-3)). No effect was found for particulate matter and SO2, whereas O3 was associated with admissions only among children (lag 1, 5.5% increase per IQR, 23.9 microg x m3). The effect of NO2 was stronger on acute respiratory infections (lag 0, 4.0% increase) and on asthma among children (lag 1, 10.7% increase). The admissions for all ages for asthma and COPD were associated only with same-day level of CO (5.5% and 4.3% increase, respectively). Multipollutant models confirmed the role of CO on all respiratory admissions, including asthma and COPD, and that of NO2 on acute respiratory infections. Among children, O3 remained a strong indicator of acute respiratory infections. Carbon monoxide and photochemical pollutants (nitrogen dioxide, ozone) appear to be determinants of acute respiratory conditions in Rome. Since carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are good indicators of combustion products from traffic related sources, the detected effect may be due to unmeasured fine and ultrafine particles.

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