Small particles from traffic and heating oil may be causing toddlers to wheeze and cough

A new study by the Columbia University Center for Children's Environmental Health in New York City, published in the December 1st issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine suggests that it may not the the total number of airborne article which affect very young children but individual components of that pollution.

The researchers followed more than 700 children, all living in northern Manhattan or the the south Bronx, from birth to the age of  two. Every three months, parents filled out a questionnaire about any respiratory symptoms the infants had experienced. The study took into account factors such as seasonal allergy trends, ethnic group and exposure to tobacco smoke.

After comparing the results of the questionnaires with weekly pollution data from different sites in the community, the researchers found that high ambient levels of the metals nickel and vanadium were risk factors for wheezing, while exposure to carbon particles, a by product of diesel exhaust, was associated with coughing during the cold and flu season.

Total amounts of airborne particles were not associated with wheeze or cough, suggesting that individual ingredients of air pollution may be responsible for asthma symptoms in young children, not the  total pollution load.
The EPA currently sets air pollution standards based on total mass of fine particles.

Courtesy Reuters Health -

First Published in December 2009

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