Hong Kong Dust Storms Up Emergency COPD Admissions

Significant increase in hospital admissions for respiratory diseases two days after dust storm

THURSDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- There is a significant correlation between dust storms and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)-related emergency hospital admissions two days later, according to a study published online Aug. 24 in Respirology.

Wilson W.S. Tam, M.B.B.S., from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and colleagues examined the correlation between dust storms and emergency hospital admissions due to respiratory disease. Between 1998 and 2002, data on daily emergency admissions for respiratory diseases to major hospitals in Hong Kong were collected. During the same period, indices of air pollutants and meteorological variables were obtained from various government departments. The mean daily number of admissions on dust storm and non-dust storm days were compared, and the effect of particulate matter up to 10 micrometers (PM10) on hospital admissions was assessed.

The investigators identified five dust storm days during the study period. Emergency hospital admissions due to COPD increased significantly two days after a dust storm episode. For a lag of two days, the relative risk of PM10 was 1.05 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.01 to 1.09) per 10 µg/m³.

"Dust storms affecting Hong Kong can cause a significant increase in local emergency hospital admissions due to COPD, two days after the event," the authors write. "Timely health warning to those with chronic lung diseases, to reduce outdoor activities during dust storm days may reduce their need for hospital admissions."

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