Global Climate Extremes Worsen Air Quality, Professor Chuang, Hsiao-Chi Urges Lung Disease Patients to Take Precautions

Global warming has led to extreme weather events, such as heavy rains and snowstorms worldwide. Taiwan has also experienced sudden temperature changes, where citizens can feel summer and winter weather in a single day. According to recent research from Taipei Medical University, drastic weather changes cause natural disasters and affect air quality. Mainly, individuals with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are more likely to experience flare-ups or worsening of their condition under such extreme weather.

From 2017 to 2022, Professor Chuang Hsiao-Chi of the Taipei Medical University School of Medicine conducted a cross-sectional study on 930 COPD patients in Taiwan. The study, a significant contribution to our understanding of the impact of climate change on health, assessed whether extreme climate changes impact the health of these patients, covering daily average and variations in temperature, relative humidity (RH), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) over 1, 7, and 30 days. The results, which are crucial for individuals with COPD and healthcare professionals, indicated that significant daily variations in temperature and RH led to increased difficulty in breathing and temporary declines in lung function among COPD patients.

Professor Chuang noted that Forced Expiratory Volume in one second (FEV1) and Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) are common indicators hospitals use to assess lung function. The study showed that COPD patients had lower scores on the modified Medical Research Council (mMRC) dyspnea scale and COPD Assessment Test (CAT) during winter. More significant temperature differences were associated with declines in FEV1 and FVC lung functions in spring and autumn. This study, titled “Short-term mediating effects of PM2.5 on climate-associated COPD severity,” has been published in the international journal Science of the Total Environment. [Right Image: Professor Chu

ang Hsiao-Chi from the School of Medicine]

Professor Chuang emphasized that the impact of PM2.5 on health is well-established, and efforts should be made to reduce PM2.5 emissions by increasing public transport use and reducing reliance on personal vehicles. However, under the influence of global climate change, extreme atmospheric variations also affect environmental PM2.5 concentrations, posing significant health risks to the public. For instance, when citizens know that the daytime high will be 26 degrees Celsius and the nighttime low will drop to 16 degrees, they should be alert. In addition to keeping warm, wearing masks, reducing outdoor activities, and using air purifiers are advised. This is because the combined effects of temperature and humidity fluctuations and air pollution during extreme weather changes pose greater health risks, leading to symptom aggravation or acute exacerbations in patients. It’s crucial to be aware of these risks and take necessary precautions.

[Left Image: Professor Chuang Hsiao-Chi’s research found that drastic daily temperature changes and variations in relative humidity lead to increased difficulty in breathing and temporary declines in lung function among COPD patients]