Living in damp river valleys leads to lung problems

Amsterdam, The Netherlands: A new study has shown that living in a river valley at low altitude can increase the risk of developing lung problems.

The research will be presented tomorrow (25 September 2011) at the European Respiratory Society's (ERS) Annual Congress in Amsterdam. The ERS Congress will officially open today (24 September 2011).

In the first study of its kind, researchers from the UK aimed to assess the impact of weather, pollution and geography on the symptoms of people with (COPD). This is the first evidence to find a link between increased and lower altitude areas of river valleys.

River valleys are typically damp areas in which cool layers of air get trapped below layers of warmer air. Known as a temperature inversion, this leads to mists and fogs which keep suspended droplets of water in the air, causing humid conditions.

Over the course of a year, daily respiratory symptoms of 52 people with COPD were monitored. The frequency of symptom exacerbation was then compared with the altitude and how close the subjects lived to the river, as well as with selected weather and pollution variables. These variables included humidity, temperature and dew point, which is the temperature below which begin to condense and dew can form.

To measure the impact of these factors, the researchers compared their data with the average number of exacerbations and the usual symptoms experienced by all participants.

The results demonstrated that there were a number of links between the in a river valley and an exacerbation of COPD symptoms. The findings revealed that patients experienced a higher frequency of COPD the lower the altitude they lived at, and symptoms were also exacerbated by and low dew point.

The authors conclude that can be heightened due to the unique climate in a river valley. The suspended droplets of water in the air retain particles and pollutants, leading to adverse symptoms.

Prof Richard Lewis, one of the lead authors from the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "Our study is the first to assess the impact that living in a has on the symptoms of COPD patients. As a result of this unique combination of weather and climate, toxic particles and pollutants – which would otherwise be small enough to be inhaled but subsequently exhaled – become attached to droplets and are then retained within the lung causing exacerbation of symptoms."

Related Stories

Traffic pollution worsens symptoms in asthmatic children

date Nov 14, 2008

Traffic pollution, especially in cities, adversely affects respiratory health in children with asthma. A study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Respiratory Research has found that in this vulnerable group, ...

Recommended for you

Bill seeks to expand coverage for Hawaii fertility law

date 3 hours ago

A proposal in Hawaii's Legislature would expand a state mandate on fertility treatments to include same sex couples and single women, updating a law that now only offers such benefits to women who are married to men.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.