Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Even low levels of air pollution appear to affect children's lung health

Public Release: 25-Apr-2016
Even low levels of air pollution appear to affect children's lung health
By age 8, children living close to major roadways have decreased lung function
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

According to new research led by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) pulmonologist and critical care physician Mary B. Rice, MD, MPH, improved air quality in U.S. cities since the 1990s may not be enough to ensure normal lung function in children. The findings were recently published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care, a journal of the American Thoracic Society.

Rice and colleagues found that children exposed to higher levels of air pollution, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and soot (black carbon), had worse lung function than those living in less polluted areas. By age eight, children living within 100 meters of a major roadway had lung function that was on average 6 percent lower than that of children living 400 meters or more away.


"The federal government implemented strict air quality regulations in the 1990s, but we wanted to know if they were enough to protect lung function in children," said Rice, who is also an instructor at Harvard Medical School. "Fine particulate matter levels in Boston declined more than 30 percent between 1996 and 2006, but we still found that children who were more heavily exposed to PM2.5 had lower lung function on average and higher risk of clinically reduced lung function."

At the age of eight, study participants underwent lung function tests. The researchers found that children living the closest to major highways, and those with higher exposure to PM2.5 or black carbon had lower lung function than those who were less heavily exposed to pollution. In addition, children who experienced greater improvements in air quality after the first year of life, either due to a move or changes in local pollution, had better lung function compared to those whose air quality did not improve as much.


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