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Smoggy Air Might Help Spur Sinusitis
  • Robert Preidt
  • Posted August 4, 2021

Smoggy Air Might Help Spur Sinusitis

Air pollution could cause sinus misery, new research suggests.

Specifically, tiny particulate air pollution (known as PM2.5) could contribute to chronic rhinosinusitis, a condition in which the sinuses get infected or irritated, become swollen, are severely congested and secrete mucus into the throat for 12 weeks or more.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to report that long-term exposure to fine particulate matter air pollution increases the odds of developing [chronic rhinosinusitis], particularly the most severe form of the disease," said lead author Dr. Murugappan Ramanathan. He is a rhinologist and associate professor of otolaryngology--head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Facial pain, pressure and loss of smell can also occur. In some people, it may be associated with depression, anxiety, impaired sleep and low quality of life.

This study looked at more than 6,100 Americans aged 18 and older. They included more than 2,000 with chronic rhinosinusitis who did not have it for up to five years before diagnosis.

Using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, the researchers used participants' ZIP codes to determine their PM2.5 pollution exposure 12, 24, 36 and 60 months before the sinusitis diagnosis.

People exposed to higher PM2.5 concentrations over a long period were more likely to be diagnosed with chronic rhinosinusitis, the study found.

For example, exposure over 60 months was associated with about a 1.5-fold increased risk of chronic rhinosinusitis, and nearly five times the risk of developing severe inflammation in all four sinuses (known as pansinusitis).

PM2.5 is the term for airborne particles under 2.5 micrometers in size (about 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair). The particles can include dust, dirt, soot, smoke, organic compounds and metals.

It has been linked to heart disease, lung cancer, mental decline, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and premature death.

Previous research by Ramanathan and colleagues linked PM2.5 to loss of smell.

The new findings were recently published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on sinusitis.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, July 29, 2021

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