July 2010: Air pollution research: Switzerland ranks among the top in the world

A recent analyses of all scientific articles (>25'000) on 'air pollution' published 1955-2006 give very high scores to Swiss researche teams. Two of the "top ten" most productive scientists in the world are long-term members of the SAPALDIA research team. Among the countries with regular research activity in this field, the Dutch, Swedish, and Swiss publications rank highest with regard to the average citatation per article - a measure of the impact and attention this research gets in the world. The Swiss top ranking is heavily driven by SAPALDIA research, publicly funded by the Siss National Science Foundation.

After decades of limited funds for this research, the world-wide number of publications began to raise dramatically since 1991. The year marks the time of the first SAPALDIA investigation and the beginning of a new area with fast developments of novel research methods to investigate the consequences of current day air pollution. International research of the past 20 years resulted in much stronger air quality policies, adopted in many countries of the world. This led to improved air quality particularly in the US and the mid and Northern part of Europe, including Switzerland. SAPALDIA has shown that the health of the Swiss population benefited from these environmental improvements.

SAPALDIA 3 will elucidate the role of various traffic-related pollutants in the development of chronic diseases. The SAPALDIA team also attempts to clarify who is most susceptible to the adverse effects of air pollution and why some people may not be affected. This will be most relevant not only to advance knowledge but for prevention and public health policy making.

The SAPALDIA research is possible only thanks to the continued contribution of the SAPALDIA participants. Although SAPALDIA participants are not paid for their 2-3 hours exam, the response rates remain very promising also during the ongoing third round of investigations (SAPALDIA 3).


May 2009 : Improved PM10 exposure attenuates age-related lung function decline: genetic variants in p53, p21 and CCND1 modify this effect. Environ Health Perspect 2009

In 2007, the SAPALDIA investigators had reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that improvements in air quality, measured as PM10, had attenuated the age-related lung function decline. The new report published in the Journal “Environmental Health Perspectives” presents evidence that the benefit from improved air quality depends on genetic background. Common variants in three cell cycle control reduction genes (CCND1, p53 and p21) modified the association between lung function decline and PM10 exposure. The results are intriguing as they provide first epidemiologic proof that genes involved in cancer biology might also play a role in the mechanism by which air pollutants affect respiratory health. For example, SAPALDIA participants carrying the genetic variant not associated with increased cancer risk benefit most from an improvement in PM10 exposure. They experience the most pronounced attenuation of age-related lung function decline. The observed differences in lung function decline between genotypes were comparable to the effects of smoking a pack of cigarettes per day. This report gives a novel perspective to protecting subjects most susceptible from harmful levels of air pollutants, as legally required in Switzerland.


April 2009 : Traffic-related air pollution correlates with adult-onset asthma among never-smokers.

This is the title of a new paper published on line in Thorax on 8th of April 2009 by N. Künzli and co-workers, based on an analysis of the Sapaldia cohort. Among 2725 never-smokers, 41 reported new asthma between 1991 and 2002. Asthma incidence was associated with change in traffic-related PM10: participants were less likely to develop asthma if TPM10 had decreased at their home address during the 11 years interval. Thus, the data suggest a role for traffic-related pollution in adult-onset asthma. As traffic-related pollution prevails, the finding may be of substantial public health relevance.

January 2009 :  Good news from the Swiss National Foundation !

The Swiss National Science Foundation  has communicated to the Sapaldia investigators that it is willing to provide a financial support to a third survey of the Sapaldia  cohort in 2010. These are very good news for it will make possible the further study of the complex interaction between respiratory and cardio-vascular health in relation to air pollution and other environmental exposure. Although the SNF financial contribution will support the largest part of the planned expenses for  this survey, additional funding sources will have to be found within a short time !