Air pollution linked to asthma in school children
Allergy season is known to aggravate children's asthma attacks, but other types of fine particle pollution in the air throughout the year also measurably affect children's lung function.
It's well established that poor air quality can worsen symptoms in people with asthma or other lung disease, and some studies have linked it to heart disease, too. But few studies have followed the health effects over time.
To investigate whether exposure to air pollutants and fungal spores might worsen childhood respiratory health, researchers followed 100 school-aged children from Taiwan - some with asthma or hay fever and some without allergic diseases.
The researchers tested the participants' lungs once a month over a school year and collected data on several air pollutants, including fungal spores, ozone and fine particles less than 2.5 microns (a micron is one-millionth of a metre) in size, which are often byproducts of burning fossil fuels.
A 10-years-old's lung capacity is typically between 2 and 3 litres, but even a modest increase in fine particles in the air was linked to a 0.16-litre decrease in the amount of air children could take in. A similar effect was seen for fungal spores, even after taking into account levels of other air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide. Ozone also affected the lung capacity.
Though the researchers didn't find any increases in the number of asthma attacks, the findings suggest that even without producing observable changes in asthma attacks or the children's medication use, exposure to pollutants and spores could harm their lung function.
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