The inflammatory bowel diseases and ambient air pollution: A novel association

Gilaad G. Kaplan, James Hubbard, Joshua Korzenik, Bruce E. Sands, Remo Panaccione, Subrata Ghosh, Amanda J. Wheeler, Paul J. Villeneuve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


Objectives: The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) emerged after industrialization. We studied whether ambient air pollution levels were associated with the incidence of IBD. Methods: The health improvement network (THIN) database in the United Kingdom was used to identify incident cases of Crohn's disease (n367) or ulcerative colitis (n591), and age- and sex-matched controls. Conditional logistic regression analyses assessed whether IBD patients were more likely to live in areas of higher ambient concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter <10μm (PM10), as determined by using quintiles of concentrations, after adjusting for smoking, socioeconomic status, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and appendectomy. Stratified analyses investigated effects by age. Results: Overall, NO2, SO2, and PM10 were not associated with the risk of IBD. However, individuals 23 years were more likely to be diagnosed with Crohn's disease if they lived in regions with NO2 concentrations within the upper three quintiles (odds ratio (OR)2.31; 95% confidence interval (CI)1.25-4.28), after adjusting for confounders. Among these Crohn's disease patients, the adjusted OR increased linearly across quintile levels for NO2 (P=0.02). Crohn's disease patients aged 44-57 years were less likely to live in regions of higher NO2 (OR=0.56; 95% CI0.33-0.95) and PM10 (OR=0.48; 95% CI0.29-0.80). Ulcerative colitis patients 25 years (OR=2.00; 95% CI1.08-3.72) were more likely to live in regions of higher SO2; however, a dose-response effect was not observed. Conclusions: On the whole, air pollution exposure was not associated with the incidence of IBD. However, residential exposures to SO2 and NO2 may increase the risk of early-onset ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, respectively. Future studies are needed to explore the age-specific effects of air pollution exposure on IBD risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2412-2419
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


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