ATSJournals LogoThe American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care published new research that shows a link between the exposure of children to higher levels of air pollution, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and soot (black carbon), having worse lung function that those living in less polluted areas.

Researchers studied 614 children born between 1999 and 2002 and measured the distance each child’s home was from the nearest major highway, and estimated first year of life, lifetime and prior-year exposure to PM2.5, using satellite measurements.

Children underwent lung function testing at the age of eight and two important things were discovered:

  • Those living closest to major highways had the greatest reductions in lung function.
  • Those who experienced improvements in air quality after the first year of life (due to moving or local air quality changes) had better lung function compared to those whose air quality did not improve as much.

“These important findings are from a novel study combining modern modeling of exposures to air pollution with robust measurements of lung function, conducted in a community with pollutant levels now under EPA standards,” wrote Cora S. Sack, MD, and Joel D. Kaufman, MD, MPH, of the University of Washington, in an accompanying editorial. “This adds to the urgency for more work to understand the impacts of these low-level exposures on human health.”

Researches will continue to monitor these children into their adolescence years in order to determine if cleaner air quality relates to better lung function into the teenage years.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Another study by the University of Southern California looked at 4,600 children in southern California communities and tracked how the levels of particulate matter (mostly from cars and heavy industry) in the air related to respiratory symptoms such as bronchitis and congestion.

It too found that children reported less respiratory problems as the air quality improved.

Due to stronger state environmental regulations, levels of particulate matter have reduced about 47& over the last 20 years. During this same time period, children with asthma were 32% less likely to report bronchitis symptoms.

“The fact that you know clean air leads to better health in children should be taken seriously because it really has implications for how we live and how productive we become,” said Dr. Kiros Berhane, the study’s lead author.

This study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. To find out how an air purifier can help keep the air around you safe to breathe take a look at our section on how air purifiers can help.