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My research into bronchiectasis is crucial

If you have bronchiectasis, you might find that air pollution makes your symptoms worse. Professor James Chalmers is researching the link, and finding out what can be done to help. 

Air pollution is harmful for everyone, but it can be particularly damaging to patients with lung conditions.

Even brief exposure to high levels of air pollution causes inflammation in the lungs of people with asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis and other long term lung conditions. 

I'm researching why people with lung diseases like bronchiectasis are so susceptible to the effects of air pollution.

How I'm researching bronchiectasis

My team has been studying how different levels of air pollution affect people living with bronchiectasis in Scotland. We saw a clear link between chest infections, visits to the GP and hospital admissions, and high levels of air pollution.

It was a risk all year round, but the chance of infection was more than double in the summer, when people are spending more time outdoors. 

Our study concluded that people with bronchiectasis are very susceptible to air pollution. Now, we need to find out why - and to how we can stop it.

We must lower levels of air pollution

We have overwhelming evidence that air pollution harms our health. It's crucial we work with governments and local councils to promote lower levels of air pollution. We urgently need action at local and national levels to promote cleaner air.

Traffic-related air pollution is still a massive problem for public health, not just for people with lung disease, but for everyone in the UK. Not nearly enough has been done to reduce the levels of harmful particulates and other pollutants, like nitrogen dioxide. These pollutants cause inflammation in the lungs and have a damaging effect on the heart and other parts of the body. 

But the solution is not to advise people with lung disease to stay inside. Instead, the solution is to put pressure on our elected representatives to improve air quality. That will benefit everyone.

My work can make a difference

I hope we can find new treatments that reduce the impact of lung disease and help everyone breathe easier. Research like mine is crucial to making progress. 

It's been neglected for over a decade, but with the help of the British Lung Foundation, we're starting to make an impact on lung disease in the UK.

  Find out more about our research


I was very  interested to read this. After many chest infections, I was finally diagnosed with bronchiectasis 4 years ago. After living and working most of my life in central London, I believed my environment was making me ill and spent most of my day indoors. I decided to leave London and move to the country. After 3 months, I am already feeling the benefits of fresher air.
I have bronchiectasis and yes air pollution is not good for me and nor are stuffy rooms. I live on a main road which doesn't help! No answer yet but thanks for helping us. Jill
I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis when I was 17.  Recognition of condition and help is far better now 54 years later.  I know air quality is essential with this condition.  I have always found it harder in spring when not only the air quality but pollens are rife.  I used to call it lilac time!  Where I live the air is reasonably good but 3/4 of a mile away in our rural town I have many more breathless spasms.  Some chemicals farmers use on the fields affect me too.  I fully back Dr Chalmers research and hope we can get a reduction in traffic fumes at least and perhaps look at what chemical is released when they are used on fields.  Personally I am very susceptible to air quality but over the years have learnt to cope.
I wasn't diagnosed until about 7 years ago as I was told it was Asthma and then they suggested COPD. Apparently developed it when I had whooping cough at the age of 3. I find any research into Bronchiectasis can only be a bonus. I was amazed how this Summer I developed a chest infection which was hard to shift and can only think it must have been because of air polution. I self manage my symtoms and try to keep away from the Doctor as much as possible by increasing exercise and keeping my weight down, but this isn't always possible when ill. Thankyou for researching this.
where I live I have to go into Cleveleys and nearly always get stuck behind a smoker, I can say that a day after going there I will be feeling ill and coughing a lot, harder for me as I also have a leaking heart valve. but have to carry on as no cure as yet.
I am very glad that James Chalmers is conducting this much needed research. However I am concerned that your campaigning information focusses mostly on vehicle emissions. The impact on health coming from domestic use of fuels can have a far worse impact and rural areas can be far worse affected than areas of high population density. The Public Policy Research Institute has recently published evidence on this much ignored subject. I have been badly affected in my rural area by people in my Village burning Wood, Coal and scavenged pallets. Fumes from their households are entering my house and it is so bad that I often have to sleep with a face mask on. Things will only change when they realise that lighting their fires could be endangering their own health and that of their neighbours. This will only happen if there is a massive campaign to educate people on the dangers of their habits. Of course some people won't care if they are endangering their neighbours and their own health. I live in a County that has overall Clean air but until now the Council has been refusing to do anything or take seriously Pollution in rural villages. I know burning has badly affected my health as on more than one occasion the local farmers have had huge bonfires burning hedges. When this happens I feel like somebody has rubbed my Lungs with sandpaper. Then 4-5 days later I have had Lung bleeds. This leads to another round of antibiotics which in the long run I feel will have a negative impact on my immune system.
I am 74 and was diagnosed over forty years ago.  Although I couldn’t be sure in those days that pollution was a cause of increased phlegm I suspected as much.  I was fortunate in being able to move to a country area and immediately my symptoms improved.  I was able to work full time and have a family.  However in recent years the traffic near me has increased enormously.  We are no longer in the country.  Even a short trip of one mile in the front seat of a car near the ventilation is enough to start it off so on Monday we are moving further out into the country.  Life is too short to live short of breath!
Hi, my father has bronchiectasis and he's in his 70's. He is from Hong Kong and used to get lung infections as a child. His doctor told him then that he'd probably be coughing a lot when he was older. Since he retired, he now has bronchiectasis, and I feel very sorry from him since he can't do much traveling and has to spend about 2.5 hours a day clearing his lungs. I worry about him. I believe there is a higher prevalence of bronchiectasis in Hong Kong (less so in the United States, where we now live). Does air pollution directly cause bronchiectasis? Hong Kong was much more polluted back then, but is still affected by regional air pollution today. I also spent a year in northern China and coughed up black mucus everyday that I was there. I'm very curious to know if there a direct correlation.

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12 October 2018