Lung function reductions associated with motor vehicle density in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a cross-sectional study

Monica Nitschke, Sarah L. Appleton, Qiaoyu Li, Graeme Tucker, Pushan Shah, Peng Bi, Dino L. Pisanello, Robert J. Adams

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Background: Motor vehicle-related air pollution can potentially impair lung function. The effect of pollution in people with compromised pulmonary function such as in COPD has not been previously investigated. To examine the association of lung function with motor vehicle density in people with spirometrically determined COPD in a cross-sectional study.

Methods: In 2004-06, The North West Adelaide Health Study (NWAHS), a biomedical cohort of adults assessed pre and post-bronchodilator spirometry (n = 3,103). Traffic density, obtained from the motor vehicle inventory maintained by the South Australian Environment Protection Authority, was expressed as the daily numbers of vehicles travelling within a 200 m diameter zone around participants' geocoded residences.

Results: In subjects with COPD (FEV 1 /FVC <0.7, n = 221, 7.1 %), increasing daily vehicle density was associated with statistically significant decreases in lung function parameters after adjustment for smoking and socio-economic variables. Mean (95 % CI) post-bronchodilator % predicted FEV 1 was 81 % (76-87) in the low (≤7179/day) compared with 71 % (67-75) in the high (≥15,270/day) vehicle exposure group (p < 0.05). Linear regression analysis in all subjects with COPD showed significant decrements in post-bronchodilator FEV 1 /FVC ratio and % predicted FEV 1 of 0.03 and 0.05 % respectively per daily increase in 1000 vehicles. In men with COPD (n = 150), the corresponding reductions were 0.03 and 0.06 %. Smaller, non-significant decrements were seen in females. No difference was seen in those without COPD.

Conclusions: Vehicle traffic density was associated with significant reductions in lung function in people with COPD. Urban planning should consider the health impacts for those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138
Number of pages10
JournalRespiratory Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

'This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.'


  • COPD
  • Vehicle density
  • Lung function
  • Air pollution
  • Cross-sectional study


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