Researchers from Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and Harvard Chan School of Public Health in the US analysed a subset of data collected from a cohort of 2,280 males from the greater Boston area who were given tests to determine their lung function.
The average age of participants in the study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, was 73 years.
Lung function tests include a variety of tests that check how well the lungs work.
The researchers examined the relationship between test results, self-reported NSAID use, and ambient particulate matter (PM) and black carbon in the month preceding the test, while accounting for a variety of factors, including the health status of the subject and whether or not they were smokers.
They found that the use of any NSAID nearly halved the effect of PM on lung function, with the association consistent across all four weekly air pollution measurements from same-day to 28 days prior to the lung function test.
Since most of the people in the study who took NSAIDs used aspirin, the researchers said the modifying effect they observed was mainly from the drug.
However, they added that the effects of non-aspirin NSAIDs are worthy of further exploration.
While the mechanism is unknown, the researchers, including those from Boston University School of Medicine in the US, speculate that NSAIDs mitigate inflammation brought about by air pollution.
"Our findings suggest that aspirin and other NSAIDs may protect the lungs from short-term spikes in air pollution," said Xu Gao, a post-doctoral research scientist at the Columbia Mailman School.
"Of course, it is still important to minimise our exposure to air pollution, which is linked to a host of adverse health effects, from cancer to cardiovascular disease," Gao said.
An earlier study by researchers found that B vitamins may also play a role in reducing the health impact of air pollution.
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