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June 24, 1974

Air Pollution in New Guinea: Cause of Chronic Pulmonary Disease Among Stone-Age Natives in the Highlands

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, New York Medical College, New York.

JAMA. 1974;228(13):1653-1655. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230380021014

Inhabitants of villages in the Highlands of New Guinea wear scant clothing. To keep warm during cold nights they burn smoky fires in small closed huts, where they inhale extremely high levels of particulate matter and aldehydes. Pulmonary disease, mainly obstructive but also restrictive, appears at an early age and was present in 78% of subjects over age 40 years. Severely affected subjects have diminished breath sounds, coarse rales, and decreased chest cage movement. Pathologic specimens from affected subjects demonstrated centrilobular emphysema, thickened pleura, pulmonary fibrosis, mucous gland hypertrophy, and deposition of anthracotic pigment. Other factors probably responsible for the high prevalence of pulmonary disease include smoking of home grown tobacco, protein malnutrition, poor sanitation, and various endemic diseases.

(JAMA 228:1653-1655, 1974)