The relationship of lung function with ambient temperature

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Background Lung function is complex trait with both genetic and environmental factors contributing to variation. It is unknown how geographic factors such as climate affect population respiratory health. Objective To determine whether ambient air temperature is associated with lung function (FEV1) in the general population. Design/Setting Associations between spirometry data from two National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) periods representative of the U.S. non-institutionalized population and mean annual ambient temperature were assessed using survey-weighted multivariate regression. Participants/Measurements The NHANES III (1988–94) cohort included 14,088 individuals (55.6% female) and the NHANES 2007–12 cohort included 14,036 individuals (52.3% female), with mean ages of 37.4±23.4 and 34.4±21.8 years old and FEV1 percent predicted values of 99.8±15.8% and 99.2±14.5%, respectively. Results After adjustment for confounders, warmer ambient temperatures were associated with lower lung function in both cohorts (NHANES III p = 0.020; NHANES 2007–2012 p = 0.014). The effect was similar in both cohorts with a 0.71% and 0.59% predicted FEV1 decrease for every 10F increase in mean temperature in the NHANES III and NHANES 2007–2012 cohorts, respectively. This corresponds to ~2 percent predicted difference in FEV1 between the warmest and coldest regions in the continental United States. Conclusions In the general U.S. population, residing in regions with warmer ambient air temperatures was associated with lower lung function with an effect size similar to that of traffic pollution. Rising temperatures associated with climate change could have effects on pulmonary function in the general population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0191409
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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