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Study on Wood Smoke Effects on COPD in US

First Study Ever on Effect of Wood Smoke in Smokers Conducted by Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute

1 July 2010
Albuquerque, New Mexico….The nation’s first scientific study on the effects of wood smoke in smokers shows that wood smoke is associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and has identified a link that increases the risk for reduced lung function in cigarette smokers.  That exposure to wood smoke causes COPD was previously found to be common in women in developing countries, but has not been recognized as being a hazard at concentrations generally found in developed countries. 

The objective was to evaluate the risk of wood smoke for COPD in a population of smokers in the United States, and whether non-hereditary changes of DNA that were detected in sputum samples of these patients were correlated to the disease of COPD as shown by the destruction of lung function.  The association between wood smoke and reduced lung function was stronger among current cigarette smokers, non-Hispanic whites and men.

Lead investigators at Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI) in New Mexico, the only dedicated respiratory research center in the US, in collaboration with the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and the University of Colorado at Denver, conducted the study which was financed by the appropriation from the Tobacco Settlement Fund, and from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The findings were recently published in the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine, a publication by the American Thoracic Society.

Yohannes Tesfaigzi, Ph.D., Senior Scientist at LRRI based in ABQ, NM and lead investigator, said, “The findings are significant and timely because it shows that there are many factors that reduce lung function in the world today.”  Tesfaigzi continued, “Our findings suggest that smokers of cigarettes who are exposed to wood smoke increase their risk of having reduced lung function.”

For the research, a cross sectional study of 1,827 subjects were drawn from the Lovelace Smokers’ Cohort, a predominantly female cohort of smokers that is unique with its high percentage of Mexican Hispanic participants.  The wood smoke exposure was self-reported.  The research included measuring air entering and leaving the lungs, airflow obstruction and chronic bronchitis.    Also explored were modification of wood smoke exposure with current cigarette smokers, ethnicity, sex, and the relationship with lung cancer-related genes on COPD. 

Robert W. Rubin, Ph.D., CEO of Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, said, “Many people use wood smoke as a major heating source and also smoke cigarettes, and this research proves that it can be a very unhealthy combination.”  Rubin continued,  “With the legitimate concern to find alternative energy and heating methods in the world, we need more research of this kind to make certain that we do not add to the many factors in the air we breathe that will contribute to the destruction of lung function.” 

Link to abstract.

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