Modeling long-term effects attributed to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) exposure on asthma morbidity in a nationwide cohort in Israel

N. Greenberg, R. S. Carel, E. Derazne, A. Tiktinsky, D. Tzur, B. A. Portnov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies have provided extensive documentation that acutely elevated environmental exposures contribute to chronic health problems. However, only attention has been paid to the effects of modificate of exposure assessment methods in environmental health investigations, leading to uncertainty and gaps in our understanding of exposure– and dose–response relationships. The goal of the present study was to evaluate whether average or peak concentration exerts a greater influence on asthma outcome, and which of the exposure models may better explain various physiological responses generated by nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or sulfur dioxide (SO2) air pollutants. The effects of annual NO2 and SO2 exposures on asthma prevalence were determined in 137,040 17-year-old males in Israel, who underwent standard health examinations before induction to military service during 1999–2008. Three alternative models of cumulative exposure were used: arithmetic mean level (AM), average peak concentration (APC), and total number of air pollution exposure episodes (NEP). Air pollution data for NO2 and SO2 levels were linked to the residence of each subject and asthma prevalence was predicted using bivariate logistic regression. There was significant increased risk for asthma occurrence attributed to NO2 exposure in all models with the highest correlations demonstrated using the APC model. Data suggested that exposure–response is better correlated with NO2 peak concentration than with average exposure concentration in subjects with asthma. For SO2, there was a weaker but still significant exposure response association in all models. These differences may be related to differences in physiological responses including effects on different regions of the airways following exposure to these pollutants. NO2, which is poorly soluble in water, penetrates deep into the bronchial tree, producing asthmatic manifestations such as inflammation and increased mucus production as a result of high gaseous concentrations in the lung parenchyma. In contrast, SO2, which is highly water soluble, exerts its effects rapidly in the upper airways, leading to similar limited correlations at all levels of exposure with fewer asthmatic manifestations observed. These data indicate that differing exposure assessment methods may be needed to capture specific disease consequences associated with these air pollutants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-337
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part A: Current Issues
Issue number6
StatePublished - 19 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Taylor & Francis.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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