Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Widespread in China

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is more prevalent in China than anywhere else in the world, afflicting more than 8.6% of adults, according to a new study by researchers at Tulane University.

Almost 100 million people in China suffer from the group of inflammatory pulmonary diseases known jointly as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, make it increasingly difficult for air to flow through the lungs as they progress.

The study ties the high prevalence of the pulmonary diseases directly to long-term exposure to pollution and high rates of cigarette smoking. In the past decade, increasingly intense levels of air pollution, including hazardous ground-level concentrations of ozone, have become the norm in China’s major population centers. That trend, combined with widespread workplace exposure to dust or chemicals, have fueled what the Tulane researchers call an epidemic of the diseases.

In 2013, COPD was the third highest cause of death in China. It trails only hypertension and diabetes as the most prevalent diseases in the country.