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Household air pollution and COPD: cause and effect or confounding by other aspects of poverty?


SETTING: Household air pollution (HAP) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are both major public health problems, reported to cause around 4 million and 3 million deaths every year, respectively. The great majority of these deaths, as well as the burden of disease during life is felt by people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).OBJECTIVE and DESIGN: The extent to which HAP causes COPD is controversial; we therefore undertook this review to offer a viewpoint on this from the Global Initiative for COPD (GOLD).RESULTS: We find that while COPD is well-defined in many studies on COPD and HAP, there are major limitations to the definition and measurement of HAP. It is thus difficult to disentangle HAP from other features of poverty that are themselves associated with COPD. We identify other limitations to primary research studies, including the use of cross-sectional designs that limit causal inference.CONCLUSION: There is substantial preventable morbidity and mortality associated with HAP, COPD and poverty, separately and together. Although it may not be possible to define clear causal links between HAP and COPD, there is a clear urgency to reduce the avoidable burden of disease these inflict on the world´s poor.

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