COPD More Widespread than Previously Estimated
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is more than three times as common as was previously estimated, affecting at least 10% of the world’s adults over the age of 40, according to figures released by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD).

The findings are preliminary results from a study conducted by Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD), an international group studying the prevalence of COPD. These figures suggest that COPD affects between 10% and 15% of adults over the age of 40 in the six countries studied, whereas previous studies estimated that less than 1% of adults between the ages of 45 and 60 have COPD.

“These numbers are beginning to give us an idea of just how great the burden of COPD is around the world,” says Leo Fabbri, MD, executive committee chair of GOLD. “The good news is effective treatments exist that can improve the lives of people with COPD and help slow the progression of the disease. That’s why it is crucial that we don’t ignore COPD.”

 Teens With Asthma Feel Excluded
Creating social clubs and athletic activities exclusively for asthmatic youth may be an important part of intervention, according to a survey presented at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). The study, conducted by Alysa Brimer, MD, and colleagues at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo, found that asthma makes children and adolescents feel different from their peers. This negative self-perception potentially can carry health risks, such as a young patient’s failure to adhere to medication regiments.

Ozone Linked to Increased Mortality
A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that increases in ozone levels are significantly associated with an increase in deaths across the United States. The study, led by Michelle Bell, PhD, Yale University, examined death rates and daily atmospheric ozone levels in 95 US cities and found that deaths increased when ozone levels were above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. The study also revealed that increased levels of ozone paralleled an increased number of deaths due to cardiovascular and respiratory causes. “This study is significant for everyone,” says Francesca Dominici, PhD, senior author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Everyone needs to be aware of the potential health risks of ozone pollution.”

The researchers collected data from 1987-2000 government mortality statistics and EPA monitoring data. Researchers then compared the number of urban death rates to EPA figures indicating changes in local ozone levels.

They found that an increase of 10 parts per billion (ppb) in weekly ozone levels was associated with a 0.52% daily increase in deaths the following week. Research also indicated that the rate of daily cardiovascular and respiratory deaths increased 0.64% with each weekly ozone increase of 10 ppb, indicating that increased ozone levels have a more dramatic relationship to heart and lung related deaths. The team calculated that a 10 ppb reduction in daily ozone, which is nearly 35% of the average daily ozone level, could save nearly 4,000 lives throughout the 95 urban communities included in the study.

“Our study shows that ground-level ozone is a national problem, which is not limited to a small number of cities or one region,” says Dominici.

The study’s results also pointed to the potential need for reviewing EPA-acceptable ozone standards. “Our study found a strong association between ozone and mortality even when ozone levels were below the current EPA standard,” Dominici says. “The EPA sponsored this study— together with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Health Effects Institute (HEI)—because they are responsible for reviewing ozone standards and changing them as necessary to protect health as required by the Clean Air Act. It is EPA’s responsibility to determine what changes are necessary, using results from this and other research.”

Breathe Easier on the Farm
Children who live or previously lived on a farm have significantly lower asthma rates, according to a new study featured in the online version of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

In this study, conducted by Alan Adler, MD, from the Medical College of Wisconsin, and his colleagues, asthma was consistently reported less frequently among younger children who grew up on a farm, suggesting that exposures occurring early in life have a more significant effect in modifying asthma than those that occur later.

The researchers sent 37,000 questionnaires to kindergarten-age through 12th-grade children in rural Wisconsin. They found that children who grew up on a farm were significantly less likely to have a history of wheezing or a diagnosis of asthma. They also reported less use of asthma medications.

Addition to Calendar
Respiratory Care Week will be celebrated Oct 23-29, 2005. This event was not included in the 2005 RT wall calendar, which mailed with the December issue.