Published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source, the study shows that patients with SARS are more than twice as likely to die from the disease if they come from areas of high pollution.
"Long-term and short-term exposure to air pollution has been associated with a variety of adverse health effects including acute respiratory inflammation, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease -- and now SARS," said Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, a professor of epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health and a leading scientist of the study. "Our findings suggest that caregivers need to pay close attention to exposure to pollutants in the living and working environments of SARS patients. These factors and others related to exposure to airborne toxins could leave some individuals at greater risk of death from the illness than others."
Since November of 2002, 5,327 cases of SARS have been diagnosed in mainland China, and so far 349 patients have died from the disease. SARS death rates vary between regions of the country, with higher rates in the north of China.
A team of researchers from the UCLA School of Public Health, the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Fudan University School of Public Health investigated whether these differences could be explained by differences in air pollution levels.
Using publicly available SARS data, the researchers assessed the death rates of patients with SARS in five different regions of China. They used data published by the Chinese National Environmental Protection Agency to assess the air pollution levels in these different regions between April and May 2003, when the majority of SARS cases were diagnosed.
The researchers categorized the region