Ambient air pollution and respiratory health effects in mail carriers.

Environ Res. 2010 Jan 2. Karakatsani A, Kapitsimadis F, Pipikou M, Chalbot MC, Kavouras IG, Orphanidou D, Papiris S, Katsouyanni K. 2nd Department of Pulmonary Medicine, "ATTIKON" University Hospital, Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece.

Mail carriers represent an occupational group suffering from respiratory symptoms and lung function impairment. Although environmental conditions may play role, information on the effects of air pollution exposure in this population is lacking.

The present study was conducted in Athens, Greece, in order to investigate the adverse effects of long-term air pollution exposure on respiratory outcomes in mail carriers. A total of 226 mail carriers and 73 office employees were enroled. Information on respiratory symptoms, medical, occupational, residential and smoking history was obtained through a questionnaire. Flow-volume curves were performed in the workplace using a portable spirometer. Individualised personal exposure assessment has been applied based on long-term residential and occupational subject history linked with geographical air pollution distribution. Furthermore, personal measurements were obtained for forty-one mail carriers using NO(2) and O(3) passive samplers, assuming that current air pollution exposure is sufficiently representative of long-term, previous exposure to make a plausible link with current health status.

The analysis based on exposures estimated on the basis of residential and work addresses showed that the most exposed to PM(10) postal workers have rhinitis at a higher rate (OR=1.67, 95% CI: 1.01-2.75). In mail carriers there is indication that those exposed to higher concentrations of Omicron(3) or PM(10) have a greater possibility to present rhinitis (OR=1.63, 95% CI: 0.93-2.88 and OR=1.70, 95% CI: 0.96-3.03, respectively). The effect of O(3) on rhinitis became even more apparent in the analysis based on exposures assessed by personal measurements (OR=6.74, 95% CI: 1.24-36.55). Exposure to NO(2) was significantly associated with decrements in lung function. For office employees the exposure to air pollutants was not associated to any adverse respiratory outcome.

Our findings suggest that air pollution is a contributing factor for the occurrence of rhinitis and lung function impairment in mail carriers.

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