Study examines if cleaner air helps COPD

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Johns Hopkins Medicine is currently conducting a study to investigate whether indoor air cleaners can improve air quality and the health of those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Although the respiratory effects of outdoor air pollution are well-known, indoor environment is also of particular concern to researchers, as most people spend over 85 percent of their time indoors.

COPD refers to a group of illnesses that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In people with COPD, the airways in the lungs become partly blocked, which makes it harder to breathe.

COPD is a progressive disease, and is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. More than 12 million people have been diagnosed with it,  but many more may have it without knowing.

Risk factors for COPD include a cough that doesn’t go away; shortness of breath, especially with physical activity; recurrent lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia; and chest tightness.

COPD can be diagnosed by a test called spirometry, which measures how much air a person can blow in and out of the lungs and how fast.

An incurable disease

Unfortunately, treatment options for patients with this very common disease are limited. Quitting smoking can slow disease progress and decrease mortality. However, not all people benefit from quitting, and many continue to have airway inflammation and respiratory problems despite abstinence from smoking.

Currently, there are no therapies that can cure COPD, so the standard of care focuses on controlling the illness through medications and avoidance of factors that exacerbate the disease, such as poor outdoor air quality.

Recent evidence from the Johns Hopkins research group led by principal investigator Dr. Nadia Hansel shows that increased indoor air pollutant concentrations in homes of former smokers with COPD are associated with respiratory illness — including increased respiratory symptoms, a worsened quality of life, and increased respiratory complications. 

Unlike outdoor air, the indoor air environment may be modified at the individual level by implementing simple methods to improve indoor air quality. The researchers have found that air cleaner intervention strategies improve respiratory symptoms in other chronic respiratory diseases, such as childhood asthma.

Smokers needed for study

The Clean Air COPD study is recruiting 120 former smokers with COPD who will be randomized in two groups. One group will receive HEPA and carbon filter air cleaners in their home, the other will receive sham air cleaners.

The study lasts for nine months, and the start date is up to each participant. The study includes one clinic screening visit, five home visits, five clinic visits to confirm COPD status and monitor heart and lung function, and monthly phone calls.

Indoor air quality monitoring will be conducted over a seven-day period in the bedroom and the room where the participant is expected to spend the most time over the monitoring period.

All participants will be evaluated at the study site at Johns Hopkins University’s Bayview Medical Campus.

Participants should be 40 or older with COPD, chronic bronchitis or emphysema, or cough or produce phlegm regularly.

Study participants will receive up to $915 during the nine-month study for their participation and time. In addition, they will be able to keep the two air cleaners, which have a value of $1,530. No health insurance is required.

All participants will receive test results upon completion of the study.

For more information or to volunteer, contact the COPD Study Team at (410) 550-9345 or (410) 550-2810.