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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Columbia: Aspirin May Prevent Air Pollution Harms

A new study is the first to report evidence that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin may lessen the adverse effects of air pollution exposure on lung function. The findings are published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Researchers analyzed a subset of data rom a cohort of 2,280 male veterans from the greater Boston area who were given tests to determine their lung function. The average age was 73 years. The researchers examined the relationship between test results, self-reported NSAID use, and ambient particulate matter (PM) and black carbon in the month preceding the test, while accounting for a variety of factors, including the health status of the subject and whether or not he was a smoker. They found that the use of any NSAID nearly halved of the effect of PM on lung function, with the association consistent across all four weekly air pollution measurements from same-day to 28 days prior to the lung function test.

“Our findings suggest that aspirin and other NSAIDs may protect the lungs from short-term spikes in air pollution,” says first author Dr. Xu Gao, a post-doctoral research scientist in environmental health sciences (EHS) at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. “Of course, it is still important to minimize our exposure to air pollution, which is linked to a host of adverse health effects.”

“While environmental policies have made considerable progress toward reducing our overall exposure to air pollution, even in places with low levels of air pollution, short-term spikes are still commonplace,” says senior author Dr. Andrea Baccarelli, chair of EHS at Columbia Mailman. “For this reason, it is important to identify means to minimize those harms.”

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