Air pollution, aeroallergens and cardiorespiratory emergency department visits in Saint John, Canada

Stieb DM, Beveridge RC, Brook JR, Smith-Doiron M, Burnett RT, Dales RE, Beaulieu S, Judek S, Mamedov A.

Environmental Health Directorate, Health Canada, Ottawa, ON.

Existing studies of the association between air pollution, aeroallergens and emergency department (ED) visits have generally examined the effects of a few pollutants or aeroallergens on individual conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In this study, we considered a wide variety of respiratory and cardiac conditions and an extensive set of pollutants and aeroallergens, and utilized prospectively collected information on possible effect modifiers which would not normally be available from purely administrative data. The association between air pollution, aeroallergens and cardiorespiratory ED visits (n = 19,821) was examined for the period 1992 to 1996 using generalized additive models. ED visit, air pollution and aeroallergen time series were prefiltered using LOESS smoothers to minimize temporal confounding, and a parsimonious model was constructed to control for confounding by weather and day of week. Multipollutant and multi-aeroallergen models were constructed using stepwise procedures and sensitivity analyses were conducted by season, diagnosis, and selected individual characteristics or effect modifiers. In single-pollutant models, positive effects of all pollutants but NO2 and COH were observed on asthma visits, and positive effects on all respiratory diagnosis groups were observed for O3, SO2, PM10, PM2.5, and SO4(2-). Among cardiac conditions, only dysrhythmia visits were positively associated with all measures of particulate matter. In the final year-round multipollutant models, a 20.9% increase in cardiac ED visits was attributed to the combination of O3 (16.0%, 95% CI 2.8-30.9) and SO2 (4.9%, 95%CI 1.7-8.2) at the mean concentration of each pollutant. In the final multipollutant model for respiratory visits, O3 accounted for 3.9% of visits (95% CI 0.8-7.2), and SO2 for 3.7% (95% CI 1.5-6.0), whereas a weak, negative association was observed with NO2. In multi-aeroallergen models of warm season asthma ED visits, Ascomycetes, Alternaria and small round fungal spores accounted for 4.5% (95% CI 1.8-7.4), 4.7% (95% CI 1.0-8.6) and 3.0% (95% CI 0.8-5.1), respectively, of visits at their mean concentrations, and these effects were not sensitive to adjustment for air pollution effects. In conclusion, we observed a significant influence of the air pollution mix on cardiac and respiratory ED visits. Although in single-pollutant models, positive associations were noted between ED visits and some measures of particulate matter, in multipollutant models, pollutant gases, particularly ozone, exhibited more consistent effects. Aeroallergens were also significantly associated with warm season asthma ED visits.

PMID: 11051536 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]