Long-term exposure to air pollution was linked to increases in emphysema between 2000-18, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Emphysema, usually associated with cigarette smoking, is a chronic disease in which lung tissue is destroyed and unable to transfer oxygen in the body effectively.
Emphysema is a debilitating disease, and people with emphysema have difficulty breathing along with a persistent cough and phlegm. It makes physical and social activities difficult, creates work hardships, and may result in detrimental emotional conditions. Its development can be a slow, lifelong process. Emphysema is not curable, but treatments help manage the disease.
'These findings may offer one explanation for why emphysema is found in some people who never smoked," says James Kiley, NHLBI's director of the Division of Lung Diseases. 'The study's results, duration, and timing offer insight into the long-term effects of air pollution on the U.S. population."