Asthma and Air Quality

Air pollution may play a huge factor in asthma

Although we may have already suspected, a new study conducted by New York University confirms that air pollution and asthma don't mix.

Researchers looked at elementary school students in the South Bronx, an area known to have the highest asthma hospitalization rates for kids. These children are exposed to high levels of air pollution. Why? There are a number of expressways and a great deal of truck traffic in this area, servicing local retailers. Also, statistics show children in South Bronx attend a school near a highway twice as often as kids in other areas of the city.

On 18 of the 69 days targeted by researchers in their study, subjects were exposed to levels of fine-particulate type pollution that exceeded the EPA's standards. Researchers believe that this result indicates that children in this area are exposed to these kinds of levels of pollutants on a regular basis.

Findings of the study showed that 5 to 10 percent of the pollution was from diesel exhaust. While making up only a small proportion of the overall particulate matter, it was the biggest offender in terms of impact on the children's asthma. Researchers indicated that asthma symptoms such as wheezing actually doubled on days when truck traffic and diesel exhaust was highest.

From 2002 to 2005, the study looked at 10 children from four schools in the Bronx. Volunteers in the study were in the age range of 10 to 12 years, and each child participated in the study for a month. During that month, the child was given a backpack of equipment to monitor air quality, including a battery-powered pump and air filter. In addition, the child would report to researchers at the schools and keep a diary on asthma symptoms as well as any activities they participated in. Researchers tested each child's lung function. Filters from each backpack were analyzed and changed as needed. Finally, a van was stationed outside the school to serve as an air-monitoring laboratory.

The findings of the research indicate that air quality is a critical problem in the Bronx. It has resulted in increased attention on reducing pollution from truck exhaust. The EPA believes fine particles in the air, such as diesel exhaust, lead to approximately 15,000 premature deaths in the US.

News Release, October 29, 2006

The Detroit News

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