Early Childhood Lower Respiratory Illness and Air Pollution

By Hertz-Picciotto, Irva; Baker, Rebecca James et al. | Environmental Health Perspectives, October 2007 | Go to article overview

Early Childhood Lower Respiratory Illness and Air Pollution


Hertz-Picciotto, Irva, Baker, Rebecca James, Yap, Poh-Sin, Dostal, Miroslav, Joad, Jesse P., Lipsett, Michael, Greenfield, Teri, Herr, Caroline E. W., Benes, Ivan, Shumway, Robert H., Pinkerton, Kent E., Sram, Radim, Environmental Health Perspectives


Research linking air pollution with morbidity and mortality indicates the strongest effects on the very young and the elderly. Higher infant and early childhood mortality has been associated with elevated ambient particle concentrations in Brazil (Penna and Duchiade 1991), Taiwan (Knobel et al. 1995), the Czech Republic (Bobak and Leon 1999), the United States (Woodruff et al. 1997), and Mexico (Loomis et al. 1999). A recent review suggests that the most consistent associations have been for respiratory causes of death in the postneonatal period (Glinianaia et al. 2004a). In older, mostly school-age children, ambient air pollutants have been associated with daily hospital admissions, reduced lung function, reported respiratory symptoms, and increased use of asthma medication (Millstein et al. 2004; Pope et al. 1991; van der Zee et al. 1999).

Although the first few years of life are considered an especially vulnerable period, few studies have examined air pollution in relation to infant and early childhood morbidity. In Chile, Ostro et al. (1999) found particulate matter < 10 [micro]m in aerodynamic diameter ([PM..sub.10]) to be associated with elevated daily counts of emergency room visits for lower respiratory symptoms among children < 2 years of age. Others (Farrow et al. 1997; Samet et al. 1993) observed no association between indoor nitrogen dioxide concentrations and incidence or severity of respiratory illness among infants.

Many constituents of ambient air pollution from manufacturing, motor vehicles, and home heating are also components of cigarette smoke, including PM and many polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) places children at greater risk for low birth weight, perinatal mortality, deficits in childhood growth, sudden infant death syndrome, middle ear disease, bronchitis, pneumonia, cough, asthma, and wheeze (DiFranza and Lew 1995, 1996; Fox et al. 1990; Strachan and Cook 1997). DNA and hemoglobin adducts and chromosomal aberrations are increased by transplacental ETS exposure (Coghlin et al. 1991; Hansen et al. 1992).

Given the sparse literature on morbidity in infants and preschool-age children, a birth cohort study was launched in 1994 in two districts in the Czech Republic as part of the Teplice program of research on exposure, bio-markers, and health effects of ambient pollution (Sram et al. 1996). Teplice is a coal mining district with numerous large power plants that historically supplied energy to much of the former Czechoslovakia; it was known for its high levels of air pollution. The other district, Prachatice, is characterized by light industry and lower levels of particulate air pollution. We used data from an intensive long-term air pollution monitoring program in both districts to examine whether short-term exposures to ambient particulate matter < 2.5 [micro]m in aerodynamic diameter ([PM.sub.2.5]) and PAHs would increase the risk for childhood respiratory illnesses in the preschool period, after adjusting for household and other covariates.

Methods

Enrollment and data collection. From May 1994 through March 1999, about 90% (n = 7,502) of women who delivered in the districts of Teplice or Prachatice participated in the Pregnancy Outcome Study (Dejmek et al. 2000). While in the hospital, mothers completed questionnaires on work history, demographics, lifestyle, and reproductive and medical histories.

A stratified random sample of 1,492 mother-infant pairs from the Pregnancy Outcome Study was recruited into the Immune Biomarker Study (IBS) (Hertz-Picciotto et al. 2002, 2005). Data on pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the neonate were abstracted from the medical records of IBS participants, including birth weight, length of gestation, maternal hypertension and diabetes, and infant APGAR score. Sampling of low birth weight and preterm births was at a higher fraction than that of normal full-term infants. …

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