Traffic Pollutant Exposure Increases Obese Boomers’ Poorly Controlled Asthma

Baby boomers and older Americans who are obese and exposed to traffic pollutants are more likely to have poorly controlled asthma, which “can lead to a decreased quality of life and an increased risk for emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and death,” according to a study by allergist Tolly Epstein, MD, and colleagues that was published in the June issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

The study analyzed 104 patients and showed that baby boomers with asthma may be more susceptible to traffic pollutant effects. The reason for this is unclear, although it may be due to potentially impaired responses to highly reactive molecules produced in their bodies as they breathe in air.

Additionally, “obese patients aged 65-years and older are five times more likely than those of average weight to not have their asthma well controlled,” said Dr. Epstein. The number of baby boomer and older asthmatics in the United States will soar from the current 3.1 million to 6.2 million by the year 2037. This age population accounts for two-thirds of asthma related deaths.

“The health effect of outdoor air pollutants on asthma in baby boomers as well as young children is substantial and underappreciated,” said allergist David Bernstein MD, co-study author and ACAAI fellow. “Asthma is a serious disease that, if not treated properly, can be life threatening. Asthma patients under the care of an allergist are shown to have better outcomes with controlled symptoms.”

Asthmatics can reduce their contact with environmental pollutants with these tips from ACAAI:

• Avoid traveling and being outdoors during peak commuting times
• Keep windows closed, especially if your home faces a highly trafficked road
• If you have an attached garage, don’t start the car and let it run – fumes can make their way into the home even when the garage door is open
• Avoid smoke, dirt, gases and other pollutants that can trigger asthma flare-ups