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Monaldi Arch Chest Dis. 2002 Jun-Aug;57(3-4):164-6.

Air pollution and reversible chronic respiratory diseases.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Mediche, U.O. di Pneumologia, Az. Ospedaliera G. Rummo, Benevento, Italy.


Air pollution is one of the world's most serious environmental problems. It has been common knowledge for many years now that the lung is one of the main target organs of environmental agents. Over the last ten years, in particular, lung diseases have increased dramatically and the literature on the subject reports high death rates from lung cancer and an increased incidence of bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These respiratory diseases are also caused by exposure to environmental agents, especially air pollution. Outdoor pollution is related to many compounds and, in assessing the air-borne pollutants and their association with respiratory damage, the role of particulate matter (PM) is of major importance. In addition to outdoor pollution, indoor pollution also exists and consists of environmental substances usually found outside which enter the internal environment, and/or of locally produced substances. Air pollution exposure involves the contact of pollutants with the respiratory tract, such exposure being measured according to two parameters: intensity and duration. Generally speaking, the pathogenic effects of environmental pollution on the organism fall into two categories: acute, or short-term effects, and long-term effects, depending on the time required from exposure to the manifestation of its effect. Short-term effects consist of irritant symptoms affecting the airways with different degrees of severity, while long-term effects, related to chronic exposure, are associated with chronic respiratory diseases, and unremitting symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, etc. Moreover, air irritants can give rise to inflammatory damage of the mucous membrane of the airways, thereby making it more susceptible to various types of allergens. In conclusion, air pollution is an important etiological factor for many chronic respiratory disorders, such as bronchial asthma and COPD. Prevention programs and early treatments are essential in an attempt to block the clinical-functional deterioration caused by these respiratory diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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