Bad for breathing

New study connects pollution to several common diseases that affect the lungs and airways

By Stephen Ornes, 09:00 AM March 8, 2013

Researchers have connected exposure to high levels of pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, to a greater likelihood of having asthma and allergies. Caption: Photo courtesy of the EPA

Inhaling air pollutants can trigger breathing problems, such as asthma. Asthma itself can be triggered by allergies. So physicians have observed that allergies, asthma and air pollution go hand in hand in hand. Still, scientists weren’t exactly sure why they were linked. New data now provide clues.

During an asthma attack, inflammation causes the inside of small airways in the lung to swell. This narrows those passageways, reducing how much air can move through them in any given breath. T...

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