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article imageEssential Science: Aspirin combats air pollution on lungs

By Tim Sandle     Oct 7, 2019 in Science
New research shows that the humble aspirin could help to reduce the adverse impact of air pollution upon the lungs. The effects were assessed against different forms of air pollution, across a 28-day period.
The research, which comes from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, presents evidence that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) could lessen the effects of air pollution exposure on lung function. The study shows that any application of any type of NSAID can reduce of the effect of pollution upon lung function.
The research also showed that the effects occur across four different air pollution measurements, when assessed over a period of one month.
Air pollution
Particulates are microscopic solid or liquid matter suspended in the atmosphere of Earth. Population exposures to ambient outdoor particulate matter air pollution have been assessed to represent a major burden on global health, with some areas considered to be a greater risk, in terms of high levels of particulate matter, than others.
Beijing issued its first air pollution red alert for 2016 on December 15  with choking smog expected...
Beijing issued its first air pollution red alert for 2016 on December 15, with choking smog expected to cover the city and surrounding areas in north China until December 21
According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is associated with a broad spectrum of acute and chronic illness, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular diseases.
Research method
To assess how effective NSAIDs might be, the scientists reviewed a pool of data collected from a group of 2,280 males who resided in the greater Boston area (U.S.), and with an mean age of 73 years old. Each person was subjected to an assessment of their lung function.
File photo: Pills
Tom Varco (CC BY-SA 3.0)
From this, data was analysed to assess any relationship between physiological data, self-reported NSAID use, and exposure to ambient particulate matter and black carbon (the sooty black material emitted from gas and diesel engines, coal-fired power plants, and other sources that burn fossil fuel). The exposure to pollutants was within the month leading up to the lung tests.
Other factors that might affect the results were accounted for, such as the relative health of each person plus whether the individual was a smoker.
Research outcome
KJ Mullins
With the results normalized, the research revealed that the use of any type of NSAID close to halved of the effect of particulate matter upon lung function. This effect was the same across four weekly air pollution measurements.
In terms of the types of NSAIDs used, the majority of the subjects took aspirin, which led to the inference that the modifying effects were principally due to aspirin, although the contribution of non-aspirin NSAIDs was apparent and can be explored further through additional research. are worthy of further exploration.
Commenting on the research, principal scientist Dr. Xu Gao states: “Our findings suggest that aspirin and other NSAIDs may protect the lungs from short-term spikes in air pollution.”
However, while the effects of NSAIDs presented, this should not deter efforts to minimize air pollution. A point which Dr. Gao reiterates: “Of course, it is still important to minimize our exposure to air pollution, which is linked to a host of adverse health effects, from cancer to cardiovascular disease.”
Why does this happen?
The airways of the lungs from physiology for young people  1884
The airways of the lungs from physiology for young people, 1884
cori kindred
At present the researchers are unsure what the mechanism is that helps to improve lung function against the normally harmful effects of airborne particulate matter. However, the research group speculates that NSAIDs in some way mitigate the inflammation that arises through air pollution when particles enter the airway.
Research paper
The research has been published in the journal American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. The research paper is titled “Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Modify the Effect of Short-Term Air Pollution on Lung Function.”
Other air pollution research
In related news, the same university has shown that B vitamins can mitigate the impact of fine particle pollution on cardiovascular disease. A study showed that non-smokers who took vitamin B supplements were able to reverse many of the negative effects upon their cardiovascular and immune systems, thereby lowering the effects of air pollution on heart rate, total white blood count, and lymphocyte count.
Essential Science
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last week we looked at autism. The syndrome is difficult to detect at the early stages and this tends to be based on assessing behavioral signs. To address this issue, scientists are working on a new blood test based on biological markers.
The week before, we considered a new study that demonstrates how carbon-neutral re-use of carbon dioxide is emerging as an alternative to burying the greenhouse gas underground. This could lead to cleaner fuels for aircraft as well as greener plastics.
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