Cape Town has the highest incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the world, according to US researchers. This is possibly because of the effects of tuberculosis and occupational exposure. COPD rates in the Mother City were found to be 22.2% among men and 16.7% among women.
This study, published in The Lancet, found the global incidence of non-cancerous chronic lung disease is far higher than usually estimated.
The study was conducted by a team led by Sonia Buist of Oregon Health and Science University, who looked at the respiratory health of 9 425 people from 12 countries. p>They found that around 10% of people aged 40 around the world have advanced COPD. This compares with previous estimates of four percent or less.
Lowest incidence was in Hanover, Germany, where it was 8.6% and 3.7% respectively.
Smoking and ageing populations are to blame for the rise of COPD, and the burden will weigh more and more heavily on health systems in the decades to come, the paper warns.
Passive smoking will kill 2 million Chinese
Futhermore, chronic bronchitis and emphysema caused by passive smoking are set to kill nearly two million people in China who today are aged over 50, according to a study published on Friday.
That toll more than doubles if one include deaths from lung cancer and heart disease also inflicted by second-hand tobacco smoke, one of the authors told AFP.
The study, led by K.K. Cheung and Peymane Adab of Birmingham University in Britain, found that people who had never smoked were 48% more likely to suffer chronic obstructive pulmonary disease if exposed to heavy tobacco smoke.
This was defined as 40 hours of exposure a week for more than five years, in a workplace or home where colleagues or family members smoked.
On present trends, "of the 240 million people aged over 50 years alive today in China, high exposure to passive smoking would result in about 1.9 million excess deaths," the researchers conclude grimly.
100 000 lives lost each year
"In China, we are looking at something like 100 000 people dying a year from passive smoking, and about 45% of that will be from chronic lung disease," Cheung told AFP in an interview.
"The rest are from coronary heart disease and lung cancer."
The study, the largest of its kind ever undertaken in China, examined 15 379 non-smokers - almost 90% of them women – in the southern city of Guangzhou.
Citing a recent study by Beijing University, Cheung said passive smoking costs China 29 billion yuan per year (3.8 billion dollars, 2.8 billion euros) in medical costs.
Other factors aggravating lung disease include bad air pollution and dangerous working conditions.
China has taken some measures to reduce tobacco consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke.
Beijing announced on Tuesday its intention to ban all tobacco advertising by the beginning of 2011, the latest possible date required under the World Health Organisation's treaty on tobacco control.
The government has also banned smoking on public transport, and has declared the Olympic Games in Beijing next summer "smoke free".
But much more can be done, said Cheung.
"They really have to make indoor public places non-smoking," including restaurants, he said. "It should be a matter of protecting the rights of non-smokers," the driving force of similar legislation in Western countries. - (Marlowe Hood/Sapa)
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