Air Pollution & Asthma

Air pollution should be considered as a potential causative factor in airway disease

At the 2018 American Thoracic Society International Conference, UC Davis researcher, Dr. Laura Van Winkle and Dr. Kent Pinkerton participated in a cross-disciplinary evaluation of the evidence gathered over 30 years concerning the potential for outdoor air pollution to contribute to the onset of new airway disease. The ad hoc subcommittee of the ATS Assembly on Environmental, Occupational and Population Health prepared recently published a consensus document on their assessments that “urges the consideration of air pollution exposure as causative not just as exacerbating for the airway disease of childhood asthma.” (Van Winkle)

Following presentations, the committee of clinicians with expertise in airway disease pathology/diagnosis, air pollution epidemiologists, and researchers experienced in the mechanistic aspects of airway disease development, underwent interactive discussions focused on new-onset asthma or COPD resulting from exposure to outdoor air pollution. “Of growing concern is the genesis of COPD through biomass burning in the home, as well as the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires associated with climate change.” (Pinkerton) The committee explored a few crucial questions:

Does the available epidemiologic evidence concerning long-term air pollution exposure support an association with new-onset asthma or COPD?

Are there biological mechanisms by which air pollution could plausibly cause new asthma or COPD?

Are the health effects of air pollution identified through epidemiologic and mechanistic studies consistent with the diagnosis of new asthma or COPD in a clinical setting?

Is there sufficient overall evidence to conclude that long-term exposure to air pollution contributes to the induction of new asthma and/or COPD?

The below consensus document yields the unanimous conclusion that the evidence demonstrates long-term exposure to outdoor air pollution is a source of childhood asthma. However, it was agreed that the evidence for adult asthma or COPD resulting from the same cause is currently insufficient.

Full document is available below on the American Thoracic Society Journal

Outdoor Air Pollution and New-Onset Airway Disease


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