Al Rizzo, MD: Detailing the Latest Data on Pulmonary Health from ATS 2022


Dr. Rizzo sits down with HCPLive to discuss the impact of air pollution and allergies on pulmonary health, as well as new research on pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Location is everything- it’s an expression that you might have heard at some point, and it’s one that proves true when discussing pulmonary health with Al Rizzo, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association (ALA) and host of the monthly respiratory health podcast Lungcast.

HCPLive met up with Dr. Rizzoat the American Thoracic Society 2022 International Conference in San Francisco to talk all things pulmonology, including the 2022 State of the Air report issued by the ALA in late April.

The 23rd iteration of the report found that more than 137 million Americans are living in areas with unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone.

“Usually, it is a matter of people with lung disease such as asthma and COPD having increased symptoms during times when there’s high ozone levels or high particle pollution,” Rizzo said in regard to how this affects people with lung disease, Rizzo stated “Particle pollution is harder to eliminate, but air quality indices can be used and many municipalities as well as local radio stations often report air quality index on a daily basis.”

He added that the report is conducted in a manner that provides the public as well as municipalities and state legislatures to advocate for change regarding clean air initiatives. This is especially useful when discussing some of the health disparities that exists due to high pollution in more racial and ethnically diverse populations throughout the country.

“Social determinants of health are affected by where people live, where they work, whether they have access to care or insurance- all those factors play a role,” he said. “And if you’re somebody that has to live in an area where the air quality’s not as good, you’re going to have symptoms, (and) you may not have access to the care you need or be able to avoid that area because of your limited resources.”

Similarly, allergies can affect pulmonary health as well, especially as we continue to experience longer and more severe allergy seasons. Rizzo attributed, in part, to climate change, stating that it also leads to dryer seasons and more wildfires.

For the latter half of the interview, the conversation turned to several pulmonary conditions currently being highlighted at ATS 2022, including pulmonary arterial hypertension.

“The primary area where there’s a lot of research and drug development has to do with the arterial hypertension that may be seen in individuals who have interstitial lung diseases such as scleroderma and certainly those who have primary arterial hypertension,” Rizzo said. “Many of the pulmonary hypertension that we see many people have is often secondary to heart disease or lung disease…so the drugs that are available for PAH are not as useful for what are World Health Organization categories 2 and 3.”

To hear more from Dr. Rizzo on advancements in pulmonary medicine, as well as how these conditions might affect patients’ sleep health, watch the full-length interview above.

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