Nonspecific Abdominal Pain May Be Linked to Air Pollution

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Emergency department visits for nonspecific abdominal pain, especially among young women, may be tied to the prevailing level of air pollution. Data from Environment Canada’s National Air Pollution Surveillance were used to determine the hourly levels of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter of varying sizes. The data were matched with daily ED visit patterns for nonspecific abdominal pain. The investigators determined that nearly two-thirds of visits for this complaint were by women, and the majority of those women were between the ages of 15 and 24. Young women are the most affected cohort because they are at increased risk for functional motility disorders, the most common of which is irritable bowel syndrome.”

The mechanism that might link abdominal pain to air pollution is unknown. “Air pollution has been linked to decreased stomach motility in mice,” the researchers pointed out. It can also trigger inflammation, “which is an important component of irritable bowel syndrome…. Future studies will need to confirm the connection between air pollution and abdominal pain.”

Presented by Dr. Gilaad G. Kaplan at the 2009 digestive diseases week conference in Canada

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