Children exposed to air pollution are at risk of asthma

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Young children who grow up exposed to air pollution are more likely to develop asthma, new research reveals.

A mix of dust, sand and non-exhaust tailpipe emissions, known as coarse particulate matter, increases youngsters under 11’s risk of the lung condition by 1.3 percent, a US study found today.

Air pollution also raises their risk of visiting the emergency room due to their asthma by 3.3 percent and being hospitalized with the condition by 4.5 percent, the research adds.

Young children are thought to be more at risk due to them typically spending a lot of time outdoors and being vulnerable to air pollution due to their immature lungs, according to the researchers.

Around 7.1 million children in the US have asthma, making it the most common chronic childhood illness. Approximately 1.1 million youngsters are affected in the UK. 

A mix of dust, sand and non-exhaust tailpipe emissions, known as coarse particulate matter, increases youngsters under 11's risk of the lung condition by 1.3 percent

A mix of dust, sand and non-exhaust tailpipe emissions, known as coarse particulate matter, increases youngsters under 11's risk of the lung condition by 1.3 percent

A mix of dust, sand and non-exhaust tailpipe emissions, known as coarse particulate matter, increases youngsters under 11’s risk of the lung condition by 1.3 percent

HAVING A CHEST INFECTION AS A CHILD RAISES AN ADULT’S RISK OF ASTHMA BY UP TO FOUR TIMES 

Having a chest infection as a child raises an adult’s risk of asthma by up to four times, research revealed in September.

Suffering from a lower-respiratory tract infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, before the age of five increases an individual’s likelihood of developing the lung condition by between two and four times, a study found.

An upper-respiratory tract infection, including a cold or tonsillitis, raises the risk by 1.5 times, the research adds.

Study author Dr Evelien van Meel from the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, said: ‘These findings support the hypothesis that early-life respiratory tract infections may influence the development of respiratory illnesses in the longer term.

‘In particular, lower-respiratory tract infections in early life seem to have the greatest adverse effect on lung function and the risk of asthma.’ 

How the research was carried out 

Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University analyzed the asthma diagnoses and treatment data of 7,810,025 children aged between five and 20 years old living in 34 states between 2009 and 2010.

The researchers estimated levels of coarse particulate matter in each zip code using information from the EPA’s Air Quality System database from 2009 to 2010.

Air pollution may cause asthma 

Results reveal for every one microgram rise in coarse particulate matter per cubic meter, children under 11’s risk of an asthma diagnosis increases by 1.3 percent.

Their emergency room visits for asthma also increase by 3.3 percent and asthma-related hospitalizations by 4.5 percent. 

For children over 11, a microgram rise in coarse particulate matter raises their risk of an asthma diagnosis by 0.6 percent.

Emergency room visits increase by 1.7 percent and asthma-related hospitalizations by 2.3 percent.  

Lead author Dr Corinne Keet said: ‘More research is needed, but these findings add to evidence that exposure to [coarse particulate matter may] contribute to asthma, and that regulation and monitoring of this part of air pollution may need to be considered.’

The results are timely as the EPA is reviewing the science of the health effects of air pollution as required by the Clean Air Act. 

The findings were published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 

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