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Air pollutants reduced lung function by school age

Children who have lived in areas where there are increased concentrations of air pollutants during the first few years of their life have a greater risk of developing protracted lower airway obstruction symptoms and allergies. Children also risk having reduced lung function by the time they reach school age. These are the findings of new research that was presented recently at the Allergistämman ("Allergy Meeting") event in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Respiratory diseases are an important reason for ill health in children that can be caused or worsened by air pollutants. A new study conducted by the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm now indicates that exposure to air pollutants from road traffic during the first year of life increases the risk of protracted lower airway obstruction symptoms and allergies to outdoor allergens. Exposure also has a negative impact on the lung function of children four years old. Similar analyses were recently made in a follow-up study of children eight years old.

The results of the research indicated that children who were exposed the most to particles from road traffic during infancy had reduced lung function by the age of eight, corresponding to an average reduction of approximately 60 ml in the volume of exhaled air for one second (FEV1 ratio). The reduction in lung function was especially pronounced in children who were allergic to ordinary airborne allergens and food allergens, as well as in boys and children with asthma. For children who were exposed the most to particles, there was also an increased risk of suffering from a sharp reduction in lung function (more than a 20-percent reduction).

"Previous research has indicated that children are extra sensitive to the negative effects of air pollutants and our study suggests that early exposure in life can be particularly harmful," says Professor Göran Pershagen of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden

The study was presented recently in Sweden at Allergistämman 2012 ("Allergy Meeting 2012") in Gothenburg at a seminar titled "Air Pollutants from Road Traffic and Allergies in Children" (Luftföreningar från vägtrafiken och allergi hos barn).

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