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Fine particulate matter increases the risk of developing asthma and exacerbating symptoms. In older adults with a history of smoking and low socioeconomic status, the risk is even higher.

Asthma, a major public health concern in older adults, is exacerbated by ambient particulate air pollution. Short- and long-term exposure to air pollutants aggravates asthma symptoms, impairing lung function and causing inflammation in the airway.

Different types of particulate matter are defined by their diameters, which have implications for their effects on health. Particles between 1 and 2.5 mm in diameter (PM1-2.5) are mostly composed of nitrate, sulfate, organic carbon, and metals. Daily exposure can lead to respiratory complications, with numerous studies showing a positive link between short-term or long-term exposure to PM2.5 and asthma in adults. 

Researchers in Shanghai conducted a study to determine how annual particulate matter exposure affected asthma in adults over 45 years of age. When controlling for lifestyle factors like BMI, diet, alcohol and smoking habits, and area of residence, long-term exposure to particulate matter was positively associated with incident asthma. Low socioeconomic status and a history of smoking were found to be additional risk factors for developing asthma in older adults.

Organic and human-generated aerosols in PM1-2.5 can induce asthma through airway inflammation and oxidative stress. Long-term exposure to different types of air pollutants may pose various risks for asthma incidence. Over the four years of the study, particulate concentrations exceeded the World Health Organization’s safety regulations. With the knowledge of poor air quality in urban areas, older adults in higher-risk groups may be more sensitive to short- and long-term effects. More research must be conducted to determine interventions and mitigate asthma in these populations.


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Li, S., Wei, J., Hu, Y., Liu, Y., Hu, M., Shi, Y., Xue, Y., Liu, M., Xie, W., Guo, X., & Liu, X. (2023). Long-term effect of intermediate particulate matter (PM(1)(-)(2.5)) on incident asthma among middle-aged and elderly adults: A national population-based longitudinal study. Science of the Total Environment, 859(Pt 1), 160204. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.160204