A new study has found that the prevalence of nonsmokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been increasing and supports the theory that exposure to biomass fuel is a major contributing factor to COPD. 

In a study to be presented at CHEST Congress Thailand 2019, researchers in Nagpur, India, sought to describe the characteristics of nonsmoking patients with COPD and to determine associated comorbidities and exposures.

Researchers examined 180 nonsmoking patients with COPD between the years of 2016 and 2018. Each patient was categorized into either mild, moderate, severe and very severe COPD, based on their responses to Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guideline questionnaires.

In this cohort, the percentage of mild, moderate, severe and very severe patients were 26%, 53%, 58% and 43%, respectively. The most common comorbidity among nonsmoker COPD was hypertension (34.4%) followed by diabetes mellitus (17.8%).

Most of the patients (61%) lived in rural areas, while 38% belonged to urban areas. 46% of patients had exposure to biomass gas, while 26% had exposure to toxic gases. These results support that exposure to biomass fuel is a major contributing factor to COPD and a higher risk among the rural population.

"Exposure to industrial smoke, environmental pollution and household smoke are major contributors for COPD in nonsmokers," says Dr Sameer Arbat, lead researcher. "There is a need to study this subset of nonsmokers having COPD further to determine the true cause of this increase."