Low-level ambient sulfur dioxide exposure and genetic susceptibility associated with incidence of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: A national prospective cohort study

Xiaojie Wang, Xu Deng, Yinglin Wu, Zhengmin Qian, Miao Cai, Haitao Li, Hualiang Lin

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Background: The association between long-term air pollution exposure and the development of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) has been established, but the evidence regarding the effect of low levels of air pollution, especially ambient sulfur dioxide (SO2), is limited. Besides, the combined effect and interaction between genetic susceptibility and ambient SO2 on IPF remain uncertain. Methods: This study retrieved data from 402,042 participants who were free of IPF at baseline in the UK Biobank. The annual mean concentration of ambient SO2 was estimated for each participant based on their residential addresses using a bilinear interpolation method. Cox proportional hazard models were used to examine the relationship between ambient SO2 and incident IPF. We further generated a polygenic risk score (PRS) for IPF and estimated the combined effects of genetic susceptibility and ambient SO2 on incident IPF. Results: After a median follow-up of 11.78 years, 2562 cases of IPF were identified. The results indicated that each 1 μg/m3 increase in ambient SO2 was associated with a hazard ratio (HR) (95% confidence interval [CI]) of 1.67 (1.58, 1.76) for incident IPF. The study found statistically significant synergistic additive interaction between genetic susceptibility and ambient SO2. Individuals with high genetic risk and high ambient SO2 exposure had a higher risk of developing IPF (HR = 7.48, 95% CI:5.66, 9.90). Conclusion: The study suggests that long-term exposure to ambient SO2, even at concentrations lower than current air quality guidelines set by the Word Health Organization and European Union, may be an important risk factor for IPF. This risk is more pronounced among people with a high genetic risk. Therefore, these findings emphasize the need to consider the potential health effects of SO2 exposure and the necessity for stricter air quality standards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number139362
StatePublished - Oct 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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