Prolonged exposure to high levels of chemicals from motor vehicle exhaust fumes and industrial air pollutants can lead to hospitalization for pneumonia among seniors, a study has found.

The study, led by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, set out to assess the effects of long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide from motor vehicle emissions and fine particulate matter from industrial air pollution.

“We compared people over the age of 65 who were admitted to hospital for community-acquired pneumonia to randomly selected people from the same community who did not have pneumonia,” said principal investigator Dr. Mark Loeb, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster.

“And what we found was that individuals who developed community-acquired pneumonia were more likely to have long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide (from vehicle exhaust) and they were twice more likely to be hospitalized.”

The study, to be published in the Jan. 1 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, looked at 365 older adults living in Hamilton who had been hospitalized with pneumonia between July 2003 and April 2005. They were compared to 494 control subjects randomly selected from the same neighbourhoods who did not have pneumonia.

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