Air pollution, lung function and COPD: Results from the population-based UK Biobank study

Dany Doiron*, Kees de Hoogh, Nicole Probst-Hensch, Isabel Fortier, Yutong Cai, Sara de Matteis, Anna L. Hansell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Ambient air pollution increases the risk of respiratory mortality, but evidence for impacts on lung function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is less well established. The aim was to evaluate whether ambient air pollution is associated with lung function and COPD, and explore potential vulnerability factors. We used UK Biobank data on 303887 individuals aged 40-69 years, with complete covariate data and valid lung function measures. Cross-sectional analyses examined associations of land use regression-based estimates of particulate matter (particles with a 50% cut-off aerodynamic diameter of 2.5 and 10 µm: PM2.5 and PM10, respectively; and coarse particles with diameter between 2.5 μm and 10 μm: PMcoarse) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations with forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), the FEV1/FVC ratio and COPD (FEV1/FVC <lower limit of normal). Effect modification was investigated for sex, age, obesity, smoking status, household income, asthma status and occupations previously linked to COPD. Higher exposures to each pollutant were significantly associated with lower lung function. A 5 µg·m-3 increase in PM2.5 concentration was associated with lower FEV1 (-83.13 mL, 95% CI -92.50- -73.75 mL) and FVC (-62.62 mL, 95% CI -73.91- -51.32 mL). COPD prevalence was associated with higher concentrations of PM2.5 (OR 1.52, 95% CI 1.42-1.62, per 5 µg·m-3), PM10 (OR 1.08, 95% CI 1.00-1.16, per 5 µg·m-3) and NO2 (OR 1.12, 95% CI 1.10-1.14, per 10 µg·m-3), but not with PMcoarse. Stronger lung function associations were seen for males, individuals from lower income households, and “at-risk” occupations, and higher COPD associations were seen for obese, lower income, and non-asthmatic participants. Ambient air pollution was associated with lower lung function and increased COPD prevalence in this large study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1802140
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support statement: This research has been conducted using the UK Biobank Resource under application number “9946”. Y. Cai is supported by an MRC Early Career Research Fellowship awarded through the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health (grant number MR/M501669/1).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © ERS 2019


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