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New research shows air pollution can reduce children's lung function

Children who live in polluted communities are five times more likely to have clinically low lung function--less than 80 percent of the lung function expected for their age. New data from the Children's Health Study suggests that pollutants from vehicle emissions and fossil fuels hinder lung development and limit breathing capacity for a lifetime.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), one of the National Institutes of Health, the California Air Resources Board and the Hastings Foundation. The results of the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, are published in this week's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"This is the longest study ever conducted on air pollution and children's health," said Dr. Kenneth Olden, director of NIEHS. "It shows that current levels of air pollution have adverse effects on lung development in children between the ages of 10 and 18."

Each year, pulmonary function data were collected from 1,759 children as they progressed from 4th grade to 12th grade. The researchers also tracked levels of air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, acid vapor, elemental carbon, and particulate matter in the 12 Southern California communities where the children lived. The study encompassed some of the most polluted areas in the greater Los Angeles basin, as well as several less-polluted communities outside the Los Angeles area.

Over the eight year period, researchers found that children living in the most polluted communities had significant reductions in their "forced expiratory volume" -- the volume of air that can be exhaled after taking a deep breath -- as compared to children living in communities with cleaner air.

In healthy people, lungs grow to full capacity during the teenage years, but typically stop growing at age 18. Then, lung capacity gradually declines. Adults begin to lose lung function b
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Contact: John Peterson
peterso4@nih.gov
919-541-7860
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
8-Sep-2004


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