Medical research boasts thousands upon thousands of studies which prove common sense. In this case, researchers wanted to confirm that improved air quality in Stockholm, Sweden, during a person’s childhood would lead to improved lung function into adulthood. While this seems hardly worth the time and effort to prove, such studies justify policy changes and public health policy decisions. They also help functional medicine providers guide our patients into life and lifestyle decisions. Hopefully, conventional medicine can get on board one day and do more than just panic about climate change. The fact of “climate change” is inevitable in that humans change the environment in which they live. This study showing how our pollution comes back to hurt us can help us change our environment for the better rather than for the worse.
As environmental research had been showing an improvement in air quality through the 1990s in Stockholm, medical researchers wanted to evaluate whether lung function improved in a similar manner over the succeeding years. This would not necessarily prove a causation, but the correlation could bolster the argument that air quality did have a direct effect on lung health.
A comparison of air quality measurements between 2002 to 2004 and 2016 to 2019 in Stockholm showed about a 40 percent average improvement in various air quality measures. In some areas, the improvements were as great as 60 percent but in others it was unchanged. The researchers followed the lung function of 1509 children born between 1994 and 1996 up to age 24; they measured lung function at ages 8, 16, and 24 years of age.
These measurements alone were necessary but not sufficient to understand the effects of pollution on lung health. Therefore, they connected the locations of where these children lived with air pollution maps. By comparing lung functions with predicted exposure to air pollution markers, they could see that those living in higher pollution areas showed lower lung function in terms of 2 measures on a lung function test. The levels of airborne particulate matter under 2.5 μm, the carbon particulate matter under 10 μm, black carbon, and nitrogen oxides at the children residential addresses correlated with the measurements of forced vital capacity and of forced expiratory volume in 1 second.
Basically, for increasing levels of each of these pollution markers, the children’s yearly lung function worsened at a significantly faster rate than those exposed to lower pollution levels. While this is important for children as they grow up, another issue is that this faster rate of lung decline may set up those individuals for a higher risk of chronic lung disease at the other end of life- asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more. By that time, it will be too late to save 100-200 cc of lung volume which might have prevented the need for more aggressive therapies as adults.
As functional medicine providers work to care for our individual patients face to face in the clinic, we can also teach the public about the dangers of air pollution. Think about where you live. Think about how you vote. Think about what you allow to fill the air of your homes. Each of these decisions and actions will affect your future and the future of your children. Living healthier more abundant lives begins with simple decisions.
Zhebin Yu, Simon Kebede Merid, Tom Bellander, Anna Bergström, Kristina Eneroth, Antonios Georgelis, Jenny Hallberg, Inger Kull, Petter Ljungman, Susanna Klevebro, Massimo Stafoggia, Gang Wang, Göran Pershagen, Olena Gruzieva, Erik Melén. Associations of improved air quality with lung function growth from childhood to adulthood: The BAMSE study. European Respiratory Journal, 2023; 2201783 DOI: 10.1183/13993003.01783-2022
Thanks to Science Daily:
Karolinska Institutet. “Children’s lung capacity improved in cleaner air.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 February 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/02/230223132835.htm>
. Ambient air pollution levels (particulate matter≤2.5 μm [PM2.5], particulate matter≤10 μm [PM10], black carbon [BC] and nitrogen oxides [NOx]) at residential addresses were estimated using dispersion modelling.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.