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1.  Reduced Antibody Responses to Vaccinations in Children Exposed to Polychlorinated Biphenyls 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(8):e311.
Background
Developmental exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) has been implicated as a possible cause of deficient immune function in children. This study was designed to assess whether prenatal and postnatal exposure to PCBs impacts on antibody response to childhood immunizations.
Methods and Findings
Two birth cohorts were formed in the Faroe Islands, where exposures vary widely, because traditional diets may include whale blubber contaminated with PCBs. Prenatal exposure was determined from maternal concentrations of PCBs in pregnancy serum and milk. Following routine childhood vaccinations against tetanus and diphtheria, 119 children were examined at 18 mo and 129 children at 7 y of age, and their serum samples were analyzed for tetanus and diphtheria toxoid antibodies and for PCBs. The antibody response to diphtheria toxoid decreased at age 18 mo by 24.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.63–41.9; p = 0.04) for each doubling of the cumulative PCB exposure at the time of examination. The diphtheria response was lower at age 7 y and was not associated with the exposure. However, the tetanus toxoid antibody response was affected mainly at age 7 y, decreasing by 16.5% (95% CI, 1.51–29.3; p = 0.03) for each doubling of the prenatal exposure. Structural equation analysis showed that the early postnatal exposure was the most important predictor of a decreased vaccination response.
Conclusions
Increased perinatal exposure to PCBs may adversely impact on immune responses to childhood vaccinations. The clinical implications of insufficient antibody production emphasize the need for prevention of immunotoxicant exposures.
A study of two birth cohorts in the Faroe Islands, where diets may include whale blubber contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), suggests exposure to PCBs may reduce immune response to childhood vaccinations.
Editors' Summary
Background.
These days, mothers are as likely to worry about potential side-effects of childhood vaccinations as about whether they completely protect their child against infections. But healthy children vary in how well vaccinations “take.” After tetanus and diphtheria vaccination, for example, some children produce large quantities of antibodies that protect them against these serious bacterial diseases; others make a weaker, sometimes inadequate, immune response. What causes this variation is unclear, but one possibility is that the developing immune system is damaged in some babies by exposure both before birth and after birth through breast milk to “immunotoxicants” such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These stable, man-made chemicals, which were widely used last century as insulators in electrical equipment and as fire retardants, accumulate and persist in the environment where they affect animal and human health. PCB-exposed babies often have a small thymus (the gland where immune system cells mature), make decreased amounts of antibodies, and have more childhood infections.
Why Was This Study Done?
Given these observations, could exposure to PCBs be partly responsible for the variable immunological responses of children to vaccination? If it is, and if environmental PCB levels remain high, it might be necessary to adapt more intensive vaccination programs so that all children are adequately protected against infectious diseases. In this study, the researchers examined whether prenatal and postnatal exposure to PCBs affects antibody responses to childhood vaccinations
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled two groups of children—one group born in 1994–1995, the other in 1999–2001—living on the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic. Here, people are exposed to high levels of PCBs through eating contaminated whale blubber. All the children received routine vaccinations against diphtheria and tetanus. The bacteria that cause these illnesses do so by producing a “toxoid,” so a harmless quantity of these toxic proteins is injected to stimulate a protective antibody response. For the older group, a blood sample was taken when they were seven and half years old to test for antibodies against diphtheria and tetanus toxoids; for the younger group, a sample was taken at 18 months. The exposure of the children to PCBs was assessed by measuring PCBs in their mothers' blood during pregnancy, in their mothers' milk soon after birth, and in their own blood when their antibodies were tested. The researchers found that the antibody response to diphtheria toxoid in the younger group of children was reduced by nearly a quarter for every doubling in their total exposure to PCBs. The tetanus toxoid response in the older children was reduced by a similar amount by prenatal exposure to PCBs. Although most of the children made enough antibodies to both toxoids to provide protection, about a fifth of the older children—mainly those with the highest exposures to PCBs—had worryingly low levels of diphtheria toxoid antibodies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results reveal an association between exposure to PCBs, particularly soon after birth, and a reduction in immunoprotection after childhood vaccinations. It is not clear, however, exactly how big this effect may be. This is uncertain for two reasons. First, the estimates of how much antibody responses are reduced by doubling PCB exposure are imprecise—for the younger children this change in exposure might actually have very little effect on their response to diphtheria vaccination or it could halve their response. Second, the estimates of PCB exposures are based on only three samples of body fluids so provide only a crude indication of exposure. Nevertheless, these results in children exposed to high levels of PCBs indicate that the immune function of children might also be adversely affected by the lower levels of PCBs found elsewhere in the world. Although the changes in immune function are subtle, they could be clinically important, write the researchers, and might affect both the general health of children and the degree of protection against infectious diseases that vaccination provides. Finally, these findings suggest that efforts must be stepped up to reduce PCB exposure levels to protect the sensitive immune systems of young children from these potent immunotoxicants.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030311.
Tox Town, a Web site available from the US National Institutes of Health, provides an introduction to toxic chemicals and environmental health risks
US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry fact sheet on PCBs
US Environmental Protection Agency information on PCBs
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entries on immunization tetanus vaccine, and diphtheria vaccine
Wikipedia pages on PCBs and vaccines (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030311
PMCID: PMC1551916  PMID: 16942395
2.  Active or Passive Exposure to Tobacco Smoking and Allergic Rhinitis, Allergic Dermatitis, and Food Allergy in Adults and Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001611.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Bahi Takkouche and colleagues examine the associations between exposure to tobacco smoke and allergic disorders in children and adults.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Allergic rhinitis, allergic dermatitis, and food allergy are extremely common diseases, especially among children, and are frequently associated to each other and to asthma. Smoking is a potential risk factor for these conditions, but so far, results from individual studies have been conflicting. The objective of this study was to examine the evidence for an association between active smoking (AS) or passive exposure to secondhand smoke and allergic conditions.
Methods and Findings
We retrieved studies published in any language up to June 30th, 2013 by systematically searching Medline, Embase, the five regional bibliographic databases of the World Health Organization, and ISI-Proceedings databases, by manually examining the references of the original articles and reviews retrieved, and by establishing personal contact with clinical researchers. We included cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional studies reporting odds ratio (OR) or relative risk (RR) estimates and confidence intervals of smoking and allergic conditions, first among the general population and then among children.
We retrieved 97 studies on allergic rhinitis, 91 on allergic dermatitis, and eight on food allergy published in 139 different articles. When all studies were analyzed together (showing random effects model results and pooled ORs expressed as RR), allergic rhinitis was not associated with active smoking (pooled RR, 1.02 [95% CI 0.92–1.15]), but was associated with passive smoking (pooled RR 1.10 [95% CI 1.06–1.15]). Allergic dermatitis was associated with both active (pooled RR, 1.21 [95% CI 1.14–1.29]) and passive smoking (pooled RR, 1.07 [95% CI 1.03–1.12]). In children and adolescent, allergic rhinitis was associated with active (pooled RR, 1.40 (95% CI 1.24–1.59) and passive smoking (pooled RR, 1.09 [95% CI 1.04–1.14]). Allergic dermatitis was associated with active (pooled RR, 1.36 [95% CI 1.17–1.46]) and passive smoking (pooled RR, 1.06 [95% CI 1.01–1.11]). Food allergy was associated with SHS (1.43 [1.12–1.83]) when cohort studies only were examined, but not when all studies were combined.
The findings are limited by the potential for confounding and bias given that most of the individual studies used a cross-sectional design. Furthermore, the studies showed a high degree of heterogeneity and the exposure and outcome measures were assessed by self-report, which may increase the potential for misclassification.
Conclusions
We observed very modest associations between smoking and some allergic diseases among adults. Among children and adolescents, both active and passive exposure to SHS were associated with a modest increased risk for allergic diseases, and passive smoking was associated with an increased risk for food allergy. Additional studies with detailed measurement of exposure and better case definition are needed to further explore the role of smoking in allergic diseases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The immune system protects the human body from viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Whenever a pathogen enters the body, immune system cells called T lymphocytes recognize specific molecules on its surface and release chemical messengers that recruit and activate other types of immune cells, which then attack the pathogen. Sometimes, however, the immune system responds to harmless materials (for example, pollen; scientists call these materials allergens) and triggers an allergic disease such as allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the inside of the nose; hay fever is a type of allergic rhinitis), allergic dermatitis (also known as eczema, a disease characterized by dry, itchy patches on the skin), and food allergy. Recent studies suggest that all these allergic (atopic) diseases are part of a continuous state called the “atopic march” in which individuals develop allergic diseases in a specific sequence that starts with allergic dermatitis during infancy, and progresses to food allergy, allergic rhinitis, and finally asthma (inflammation of the airways).
Why Was This Study Done?
Allergic diseases are extremely common, particularly in children. Allergic rhinitis alone affects 10%–30% of the world's population and up to 40% of children in some countries. Moreover, allergic diseases are becoming increasingly common. Allergic diseases affect the quality of life of patients and are financially costly to both patients and health systems. It is important, therefore, to identify the factors that cause or potentiate their development. One potential risk factor for allergic diseases is active or passive exposure to tobacco smoke. In some countries up to 80% of children are exposed to second-hand smoke so, from a public health point of view, it would be useful to know whether exposure to tobacco smoke is associated with the development of allergic diseases. Here, the researchers undertake a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and a meta-analysis (a statistical approach for combining the results of several studies) to investigate this issue.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 196 observational studies (investigations that observe outcomes in populations without trying to affect these outcomes in any way) that examined the association between smoke exposure and allergic rhinitis, allergic dermatitis, or food allergy. When all studies were analyzed together, allergic rhinitis was not associated with active smoking but was slightly associated with exposure to second-hand smoke. Specifically, compared to people not exposed to second-hand smoke, the pooled relative risk (RR) of allergic rhinitis among people exposed to second-hand smoke was 1.10 (an RR of greater than 1 indicates an increased risk of disease development in an exposed population compared to an unexposed population). Allergic dermatitis was associated with both active smoking (RR = 1.21) and exposure to second-hand smoke (RR = 1.07). In the populations of children and adolescents included in the studies, allergic rhinitis was associated with both active smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke (RRs of 1.40 and 1.09, respectively), as was allergic dermatitis (RRs of 1.36 and 1.06, respectively). Finally food allergy was associated with exposure to second-hand smoke (RR = 1.43) when cohort studies (a specific type of observational study) only were examined but not when all the studies were combined.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide limited evidence for a weak association between smoke exposure and allergic disease in adults but suggest that both active and passive smoking are associated with a modestly increased risk of allergic diseases in children and adolescents. The accuracy of these findings may be affected by the use of questionnaires to assess smoke exposure and allergic disease development in most of the studies in the meta-analysis and by the possibility that individuals exposed to smoke may have shared other characteristics that were actually responsible for their increased risk of allergic diseases. To shed more light on the role of smoking in allergic diseases, additional studies are needed that accurately measure exposure and outcomes. However, the present findings suggest that, in countries where many people smoke, 14% and 13% of allergic rhinitis and allergic dermatitis, respectively, among children may be attributable to active smoking. Thus, the elimination of active smoking among children and adolescents could prevent one in seven cases of allergic rhinitis and one in eight cases of allergic dermatitis in such countries.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001611.
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about allergic rhinitis, hay fever (including personal stories), allergic dermatitis (including personal stories), and food allergy (including personal stories)
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease provides information about allergic diseases
The UK not-for-profit organization Allergy UK provides information about all aspects of allergic diseases and a description of the atopic march
MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on allergic rhinitis and allergic dermatitis (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about allergies, eczema, and food allergy (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001611
PMCID: PMC3949681  PMID: 24618794
3.  Long-Term Exposure to Silica Dust and Risk of Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Chinese Workers: A Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(4):e1001206.
A retro-prospective cohort study by Weihong Chen and colleagues provides new estimates for the risk of total and cause-specific mortality due to long-term silica dust exposure among Chinese workers.
Background
Human exposure to silica dust is very common in both working and living environments. However, the potential long-term health effects have not been well established across different exposure situations.
Methods and Findings
We studied 74,040 workers who worked at 29 metal mines and pottery factories in China for 1 y or more between January 1, 1960, and December 31, 1974, with follow-up until December 31, 2003 (median follow-up of 33 y). We estimated the cumulative silica dust exposure (CDE) for each worker by linking work history to a job–exposure matrix. We calculated standardized mortality ratios for underlying causes of death based on Chinese national mortality rates. Hazard ratios (HRs) for selected causes of death associated with CDE were estimated using the Cox proportional hazards model. The population attributable risks were estimated based on the prevalence of workers with silica dust exposure and HRs. The number of deaths attributable to silica dust exposure among Chinese workers was then calculated using the population attributable risk and the national mortality rate. We observed 19,516 deaths during 2,306,428 person-years of follow-up. Mortality from all causes was higher among workers exposed to silica dust than among non-exposed workers (993 versus 551 per 100,000 person-years). We observed significant positive exposure–response relationships between CDE (measured in milligrams/cubic meter–years, i.e., the sum of silica dust concentrations multiplied by the years of silica exposure) and mortality from all causes (HR 1.026, 95% confidence interval 1.023–1.029), respiratory diseases (1.069, 1.064–1.074), respiratory tuberculosis (1.065, 1.059–1.071), and cardiovascular disease (1.031, 1.025–1.036). Significantly elevated standardized mortality ratios were observed for all causes (1.06, 95% confidence interval 1.01–1.11), ischemic heart disease (1.65, 1.35–1.99), and pneumoconiosis (11.01, 7.67–14.95) among workers exposed to respirable silica concentrations equal to or lower than 0.1 mg/m3. After adjustment for potential confounders, including smoking, silica dust exposure accounted for 15.2% of all deaths in this study. We estimated that 4.2% of deaths (231,104 cases) among Chinese workers were attributable to silica dust exposure. The limitations of this study included a lack of data on dietary patterns and leisure time physical activity, possible underestimation of silica dust exposure for individuals who worked at the mines/factories before 1950, and a small number of deaths (4.3%) where the cause of death was based on oral reports from relatives.
Conclusions
Long-term silica dust exposure was associated with substantially increased mortality among Chinese workers. The increased risk was observed not only for deaths due to respiratory diseases and lung cancer, but also for deaths due to cardiovascular disease.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Walk along most sandy beaches and you will be walking on millions of grains of crystalline silica, one of the commonest minerals on earth and a major ingredient in glass and in ceramic glazes. Silica is also used in the manufacture of building materials, in foundry castings, and for sandblasting, and respirable (breathable) crystalline silica particles are produced during quarrying and mining. Unfortunately, silica dust is not innocuous. Several serious diseases are associated with exposure to this dust, including silicosis (a chronic lung disease characterized by scarring and destruction of lung tissue), lung cancer, and pulmonary tuberculosis (a serious lung infection). Moreover, exposure to silica dust increases the risk of death (mortality). Worryingly, recent reports indicate that in the US and Europe, about 1.7 and 3.0 million people, respectively, are occupationally exposed to silica dust, figures that are dwarfed by the more than 23 million workers who are exposed in China. Occupational silica exposure, therefore, represents an important global public health concern.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the lung-related adverse health effects of exposure to silica dust have been extensively studied, silica-related health effects may not be limited to these diseases. For example, could silica dust particles increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (diseases that affect the heart and circulation)? Other environmental particulates, such as the products of internal combustion engines, are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but no one knows if the same is true for silica dust particles. Moreover, although it is clear that high levels of exposure to silica dust are dangerous, little is known about the adverse health effects of lower exposure levels. In this cohort study, the researchers examined the effect of long-term exposure to silica dust on the risk of all cause and cause-specific mortality in a large group (cohort) of Chinese workers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers estimated the cumulative silica dust exposure for 74,040 workers at 29 metal mines and pottery factories from 1960 to 2003 from individual work histories and more than four million measurements of workplace dust concentrations, and collected health and mortality data for all the workers. Death from all causes was higher among workers exposed to silica dust than among non-exposed workers (993 versus 551 deaths per 100,000 person-years), and there was a positive exposure–response relationship between silica dust exposure and death from all causes, respiratory diseases, respiratory tuberculosis, and cardiovascular disease. For example, the hazard ratio for all cause death was 1.026 for every increase in cumulative silica dust exposure of 1 mg/m3-year; a hazard ratio is the incidence of an event in an exposed group divided by its incidence in an unexposed group. Notably, there was significantly increased mortality from all causes, ischemic heart disease, and silicosis among workers exposed to respirable silica concentrations at or below 0.1 mg/m3, the workplace exposure limit for silica dust set by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration. For example, the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for silicosis among people exposed to low levels of silica dust was 11.01; an SMR is the ratio of observed deaths in a cohort to expected deaths calculated from recorded deaths in the general population. Finally, the researchers used their data to estimate that, in 2008, 4.2% of deaths among industrial workers in China (231,104 deaths) were attributable to silica dust exposure.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that long-term silica dust exposure is associated with substantially increased mortality among Chinese workers. They confirm that there is an exposure–response relationship between silica dust exposure and a heightened risk of death from respiratory diseases and lung cancer. That is, the risk of death from these diseases increases as exposure to silica dust increases. In addition, they show a significant relationship between silica dust exposure and death from cardiovascular diseases. Importantly, these findings suggest that even levels of silica dust that are considered safe increase the risk of death. The accuracy of these findings may be affected by the accuracy of the silica dust exposure estimates and/or by confounding (other factors shared by the people exposed to silica such as diet may have affected their risk of death). Nevertheless, these findings highlight the need to tighten regulations on workplace dust control in China and elsewhere.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001206.
The American Lung Association provides information on silicosis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on silica in the workplace, including links to relevant US National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety publications, and information on silicosis and other pneumoconioses
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration also has detailed information on occupational exposure to crystalline silica
What does silicosis mean to you is a video provided by the US Mine Safety and Health Administration that includes personal experiences of silicosis; Dont let silica dust you is a video produced by the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics that identifies ways to reduce silica dust exposure in the workplace
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on silicosis (in English and Spanish)
The International Labour Organization provides information on health surveillance for those exposed to respirable crystalline silica
The World Health Organization has published a report about the health effects of crystalline silica and quartz
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001206
PMCID: PMC3328438  PMID: 22529751
4.  Gene-Environment Interaction in the Onset of Eczema in Infancy: Filaggrin Loss-of-Function Mutations Enhanced by Neonatal Cat Exposure  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(6):e131.
Background
Loss-of-function variants in the gene encoding filaggrin (FLG) are major determinants of eczema. We hypothesized that weakening of the physical barrier in FLG-deficient individuals may potentiate the effect of environmental exposures. Therefore, we investigated whether there is an interaction between FLG loss-of-function mutations with environmental exposures (pets and dust mites) in relation to the development of eczema.
Methods and Findings
We used data obtained in early life in a high-risk birth cohort in Denmark and replicated the findings in an unselected birth cohort in the United Kingdom. Primary outcome was age of onset of eczema; environmental exposures included pet ownership and mite and pet allergen levels. In Copenhagen (n = 379), FLG mutation increased the risk of eczema during the first year of life (hazard ratio [HR] 2.26, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.27–4.00, p = 0.005), with a further increase in risk related to cat exposure at birth amongst children with FLG mutation (HR 11.11, 95% CI 3.79–32.60, p < 0.0001); dog exposure was moderately protective (HR 0.49, 95% CI 0.24–1.01, p = 0.05), but not related to FLG genotype. In Manchester (n = 503) an independent and significant association of the development of eczema by age 12 mo with FLG genotype was confirmed (HR 1.95, 95% CI 1.13–3.36, p = 0.02). In addition, the risk increased because of the interaction of cat ownership at birth and FLG genotype (HR 3.82, 95% CI 1.35–10.81, p = 0.01), with no significant effect of the interaction with dog ownership (HR 0.59, 95% CI 0.16–2.20, p = 0.43). Mite-allergen had no effects in either cohort. The observed effects were independent of sensitisation.
Conclusions
We have demonstrated a significant interaction between FLG loss-of-function main mutations (501x and 2282del4) and cat ownership at birth on the development of early-life eczema in two independent birth cohorts. Our data suggest that cat but not dog ownership substantially increases the risk of eczema within the first year of life in children with FLG loss-of-function variants, but not amongst those without. FLG-deficient individuals may need to avoid cats but not dogs in early life.
In two independent cohorts of children, Hans Bisgaard and colleagues show an association between mutations in the filaggrin gene (FLG) and ownership of cats, but not dogs, with development of eczema.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Eczema is a skin condition characterized by dry, red, and itchy patches on the skin. Eczema is associated with asthma and allergy, though allergy rarely plays a role in development or severity of eczema. Eczema usually begins during infancy, typically on the face, scalp, neck, extensor sides of the forearms, and legs. Up to one in five infants develops eczema, but in more than half of them, the condition improves or disappears completely before they are 15 years old. If eczema persists into adulthood, it usually affects the face and the skin inside the knees and elbows. There is no cure for eczema but it can be controlled by avoiding anything that makes its symptoms worse. These triggers include irritants such as wool, strong soaps, perfumes, and dry environments. A good skin-care routine and frequent moisturizing can also help to keep eczema under control, but in many cases, corticosteroid creams and ointments may be necessary to reduce inflammation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Eczema tends to run in families. This suggests that eczema is caused by genetic factors as well as by environmental factors. Recently, researchers discovered that two common “loss-of-function” variants in the gene encoding filaggrin (FLG) predispose people to eczema. People who inherit one or two defective genes make no filaggrin, a protein that normally forms a physical barrier in the skin that protects the body from potentially harmful substances in the environment. Might the weakening of this barrier in filaggrin-deficient individuals affect their responses to environmental substances to which the skin is exposed? In this study, the researchers test this potential explanation for how genetic and environmental factors (in particular, exposure to pets) might interact to determine an individual's chances of developing eczema.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To test their hypothesis, the researchers studied two independent groups of infants during their first year of life—a high-risk group consisting of infants born in Copenhagen, Denmark to mothers with asthma and a group of infants born to women from the general population in Manchester, United Kingdom. The researchers determined which FLG variants each child had inherited and classified those with either one or two defective copies of FLG as having an FLG mutation. They determined pet exposure in early life by asking whether a dog or a cat was living in the parental home when the child was born (“pet ownership”) and then analyzed how these genetic and environmental factors affected the age of onset of eczema. In both groups, children with FLG mutations were twice as likely to develop eczema during the first year of life as children without FLG mutations. For children without FLG mutations, cat ownership at birth had no effect on eczema risk but for children with FLG mutations, cat ownership at birth (but not dog ownership) further increased the risk of developing eczema.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that FLG mutations and cat ownership at birth interact to determine the chances of a child developing eczema during the first year of life. They provide support, therefore, for the researchers' suggestion that the weakening of the skin's protective barrier that is caused by filaggrin deficiency increases the child's susceptibility to factors associated with cat exposure. Only a small number of children in this study carried FLG mutations and were exposed to cats from birth, so these findings need confirming in independent studies. In addition, it is still not clear how exposure to cats drives the development of eczema. Allergy was not the mechanism as the FLG-deficient children exposed to cat and who developed eczema did not develop cat-specific immunoglobin E antibodies. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that, to reduce their risk of developing eczema, filaggrin-deficient individuals should avoid cats (but not dogs) during the first few months of life.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050131.
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a page on eczema (in English and Spanish); links to further information are provided by MedlinePlus
EczemaNet is a comprehensive online information resource about eczema provided by the American Academy of Dermatologists
The US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases provides information on eczema
The UK National Health Service Direct health encyclopedia provides information for patients on eczema (in several languages)
The Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) and Manchester Asthma and Allergy Study (MAAS) Web sites provide more information about the children involved in this research
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050131
PMCID: PMC2504043  PMID: 18578563
5.  Developmental Profiles of Eczema, Wheeze, and Rhinitis: Two Population-Based Birth Cohort Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(10):e1001748.
Using data from two population-based birth cohorts, Danielle Belgrave and colleagues examine the evidence for atopic march in developmental profiles for allergic disorders.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
The term “atopic march” has been used to imply a natural progression of a cascade of symptoms from eczema to asthma and rhinitis through childhood. We hypothesize that this expression does not adequately describe the natural history of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis during childhood. We propose that this paradigm arose from cross-sectional analyses of longitudinal studies, and may reflect a population pattern that may not predominate at the individual level.
Methods and Findings
Data from 9,801 children in two population-based birth cohorts were used to determine individual profiles of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis and whether the manifestations of these symptoms followed an atopic march pattern. Children were assessed at ages 1, 3, 5, 8, and 11 y. We used Bayesian machine learning methods to identify distinct latent classes based on individual profiles of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis. This approach allowed us to identify groups of children with similar patterns of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis over time.
Using a latent disease profile model, the data were best described by eight latent classes: no disease (51.3%), atopic march (3.1%), persistent eczema and wheeze (2.7%), persistent eczema with later-onset rhinitis (4.7%), persistent wheeze with later-onset rhinitis (5.7%), transient wheeze (7.7%), eczema only (15.3%), and rhinitis only (9.6%). When latent variable modelling was carried out separately for the two cohorts, similar results were obtained. Highly concordant patterns of sensitisation were associated with different profiles of eczema, rhinitis, and wheeze. The main limitation of this study was the difference in wording of the questions used to ascertain the presence of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis in the two cohorts.
Conclusions
The developmental profiles of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis are heterogeneous; only a small proportion of children (∼7% of those with symptoms) follow trajectory profiles resembling the atopic march.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Our immune system protects us from viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens by recognizing specific molecules on the invader's surface and initiating a sequence of events that culminates in the death of the pathogen. Sometimes, however, our immune system responds to harmless materials (allergens such as pollen) and triggers allergic, or atopic, symptoms. Common atopic symptoms include eczema (transient dry itchy patches on the skin), wheeze (high pitched whistling in the chest, a symptom of asthma), and rhinitis (sneezing or a runny nose in the absence of a cold or influenza). All these symptoms are very common during childhood, but recent epidemiological studies (examinations of the patterns and causes of diseases in a population) have revealed age-related changes in the proportions of children affected by each symptom. So, for example, eczema is more common in infants than in school-age children. These findings have led to the idea of “atopic march,” a natural progression of symptoms within individual children that starts with eczema, then progresses to wheeze and finally rhinitis.
Why Was This Study Done?
The concept of atopic march has led to the initiation of studies that aim to prevent the development of asthma in children who are thought to be at risk of asthma because they have eczema. Moreover, some guidelines recommend that clinicians tell parents that children with eczema may later develop asthma or rhinitis. However, because of the design of the epidemiological studies that support the concept of atopic march, children with eczema who later develop wheeze and rhinitis may actually belong to a distinct subgroup of children, rather than representing the typical progression of atopic diseases. It is important to know whether atopic march adequately describes the natural history of atopic diseases during childhood to avoid the imposition of unnecessary strategies on children with eczema to prevent asthma. Here, the researchers use machine learning techniques to model the developmental profiles of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis during childhood in two large population-based birth cohorts by taking into account time-related (longitudinal) changes in symptoms within individuals. Machine learning is a data-driven approach that identifies structure within the data (for example, a typical progression of symptoms) using unsupervised learning of latent variables (variables that are not directly measured but are inferred from other observable characteristics).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used data from two UK birth cohorts—the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) and the Manchester Asthma and Allergy Study (MAAS)—for their study (9,801 children in total). Both studies enrolled children at birth and monitored their subsequent health at regular review clinics. At each review clinic, information about eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis was collected from the parents using validated questionnaires. The researchers then used these data and machine learning methods to identify groups of children with similar patterns of onset of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis over the first 11 years of life. Using a type of statistical model called a latent disease profile model, the researchers found that the data were best described by eight latent classes—no disease (51.3% of the children), atopic march (3.1%), persistent eczema and wheeze (2.7%), persistent eczema with later-onset rhinitis (4.7%), persistent wheeze with later-onset rhinitis (5.7%), transient wheeze (7.7%), eczema only (15.3%), and rhinitis only (9.6%).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, in two large UK birth cohorts, the developmental profiles of eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis were heterogeneous. Most notably, the progression of symptoms fitted the profile of atopic march in fewer than 7% of children with symptoms. The researchers acknowledge that their study has some limitations. For example, small differences in the wording of the questions used to gather information from parents about their children's symptoms in the two cohorts may have slightly affected the findings. However, based on their findings, the researchers propose that, because eczema, wheeze, and rhinitis are common, these symptoms often coexist in individuals, but as independent entities rather than as a linked progression of symptoms. Thus, using eczema as an indicator of subsequent asthma risk and assigning “preventative” measures to children with eczema is flawed. Importantly, clinicians need to understand the heterogeneity of patterns of atopic diseases in children and to communicate this variability to parents when advising them about the development and resolution of atopic symptoms in their children.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001748.
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about eczema (including personal stories), asthma (including personal stories), and rhinitis
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information about atopic diseases
The UK not-for-profit organization Allergy UK provides information about atopic diseases and a description of the atopic march
MedlinePlus encyclopedia has pages on eczema, wheezing, and rhinitis (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources about allergies, eczema, and asthma (in English and Spanish)
Information about ALSPAC and MAAS is available
Wikipedia has pages on machine learning and latent disease profile models (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001748
PMCID: PMC4204810  PMID: 25335105
6.  Childhood Asthma and Environmental Exposures at Swimming Pools: State of the Science and Research Recommendations 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2008;117(4):500-507.
Objectives
Recent studies have explored the potential for swimming pool disinfection by-products (DBPs), which are respiratory irritants, to cause asthma in young children. Here we describe the state of the science on methods for understanding children’s exposure to DBPs and biologics at swimming pools and associations with new-onset childhood asthma and recommend a research agenda to improve our understanding of this issue.
Data sources
A workshop was held in Leuven, Belgium, 21–23 August 2007, to evaluate the literature and to develop a research agenda to better understand children’s exposures in the swimming pool environment and their potential associations with new-onset asthma. Participants, including clinicians, epidemiologists, exposure scientists, pool operations experts, and chemists, reviewed the literature, prepared background summaries, and held extensive discussions on the relevant published studies, knowledge of asthma characterization and exposures at swimming pools, and epidemiologic study designs.
Synthesis
Childhood swimming and new-onset childhood asthma have clear implications for public health. If attendance at indoor pools increases risk of childhood asthma, then concerns are warranted and action is necessary. If there is no such relationship, these concerns could unnecessarily deter children from indoor swimming and/or compromise water disinfection.
Conclusions
Current evidence of an association between childhood swimming and new-onset asthma is suggestive but not conclusive. Important data gaps need to be filled, particularly in exposure assessment and characterization of asthma in the very young. Participants recommended that additional evaluations using a multidisciplinary approach are needed to determine whether a clear association exists.
doi:10.1289/ehp.11513
PMCID: PMC2679591  PMID: 19440486
aerosols; biologics; childhood asthma; DBPs; disinfection by-products; epidemiology; study design; swimming pools
7.  European Birth Cohorts for Environmental Health Research 
Background: Many pregnancy and birth cohort studies investigate the health effects of early-life environmental contaminant exposure. An overview of existing studies and their data is needed to improve collaboration, harmonization, and future project planning.
Objectives: Our goal was to create a comprehensive overview of European birth cohorts with environmental exposure data.
Methods: Birth cohort studies were included if they a) collected data on at least one environmental exposure, b) started enrollment during pregnancy or at birth, c) included at least one follow-up point after birth, d) included at least 200 mother–child pairs, and e) were based in a European country. A questionnaire collected information on basic protocol details and exposure and health outcome assessments, including specific contaminants, methods and samples, timing, and number of subjects. A full inventory can be searched on www.birthcohortsenrieco.net.
Results: Questionnaires were completed by 37 cohort studies of > 350,000 mother–child pairs in 19 European countries. Only three cohorts did not participate. All cohorts collected biological specimens of children or parents. Many cohorts collected information on passive smoking (n = 36), maternal occupation (n = 33), outdoor air pollution (n = 27), and allergens/biological organisms (n = 27). Fewer cohorts (n = 12–19) collected information on water contamination, ionizing or nonionizing radiation exposures, noise, metals, persistent organic pollutants, or other pollutants. All cohorts have information on birth outcomes; nearly all on asthma, allergies, childhood growth and obesity; and 26 collected information on child neurodevelopment.
Conclusion: Combining forces in this field will yield more efficient and conclusive studies and ultimately improve causal inference. This impressive resource of existing birth cohort data could form the basis for longer-term and worldwide coordination of research on environment and child health.
doi:10.1289/ehp.1103823
PMCID: PMC3261945  PMID: 21878421
birth cohorts; child health; environmental exposures; Europe; review
8.  Association of Adenotonsillectomy with Asthma Outcomes in Children: A Longitudinal Database Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(11):e1001753.
Rakesh Bhattacharjee and colleagues use data from a US private health insurance database to compare asthma severity measures in children one year before and one year after they underwent adenotonsillectomy with asthma measures in those who did not undergo adenotonsillectomy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Childhood asthma and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), both disorders of airway inflammation, were associated in recent observational studies. Although childhood OSA is effectively treated by adenotonsillectomy (AT), it remains unclear whether AT also improves childhood asthma. We hypothesized that AT, the first line of therapy for childhood OSA, would be associated with improved asthma outcomes and would reduce the usage of asthma therapies in children.
Methods and Findings
Using the 2003–2010 MarketScan database, we identified 13,506 children with asthma in the United States who underwent AT. Asthma outcomes during 1 y preceding AT were compared to those during 1 y following AT. In addition, 27,012 age-, sex-, and geographically matched children with asthma without AT were included to examine asthma outcomes among children without known adenotonsillar tissue morbidity. Primary outcomes included the occurrence of a diagnostic code for acute asthma exacerbation (AAE) or acute status asthmaticus (ASA). Secondary outcomes included temporal changes in asthma medication prescriptions, the frequency of asthma-related emergency room visits (ARERs), and asthma-related hospitalizations (ARHs). Comparing the year following AT to the year prior, AT was associated with significant reductions in AAE (30.2%; 95% CI: 25.6%–34.3%; p<0.0001), ASA (37.9%; 95% CI: 29.2%–45.6%; p<0.0001), ARERs (25.6%; 95% CI: 16.9%–33.3%; p<0.0001), and ARHs (35.8%; 95% CI: 19.6%–48.7%; p = 0.02). Moreover, AT was associated with significant reductions in most asthma prescription refills, including bronchodilators (16.7%; 95% CI: 16.1%–17.3%; p<0.001), inhaled corticosteroids (21.5%; 95% CI: 20.7%–22.3%; p<0.001), leukotriene receptor antagonists (13.4%; 95% CI: 12.9%–14.0%; p<0.001), and systemic corticosteroids (23.7%; 95% CI: 20.9%–26.5%; p<0.001). In contrast, there were no significant reductions in these outcomes in children with asthma who did not undergo AT over an overlapping follow-up period. Limitations of the MarketScan database include lack of information on race and obesity status. Also, the MarketScan database does not include information on children with public health insurance (i.e., Medicaid) or uninsured children.
Conclusions
In a very large sample of privately insured children, AT was associated with significant improvements in several asthma outcomes. Contingent on validation through prospectively designed clinical trials, this study supports the premise that detection and treatment of adenotonsillar tissue morbidity may serve as an important strategy for improving asthma control.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The global burden of asthma has been rising steadily over the past few decades. Nowadays, about 200–300 million adults and children worldwide are affected by asthma, a chronic condition caused by inflammation of the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs). Although asthma can develop at any age, it is often diagnosed in childhood—asthma is one of the commonest chronic diseases in children. In the US, for example, asthma affects around 7.1 million children under the age of 18 years and is the third leading cause of hospitalization of children under the age of 15 years. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur or to irritants such as cigarette smoke. Exercise, cold air, and infections can trigger asthma attacks, which can be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
Why Was This Study Done?
Recent studies have found an association between severe childhood asthma and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In OSA, airway inflammation promotes hypertrophy (excess growth) of the adenoids and the tonsils, immune system tissues in the upper airway. During sleep, the presence of hypertrophic adenotonsillar tissues predisposes the walls of the throat to collapse, which results in apnea—a brief interruption in breathing. People with OSA often snore loudly and frequently wake from deep sleep as they struggle to breathe. Childhood OSA, which affects 2%–3% of children, can be effectively treated by removal of the adenoids and tonsils (adenotonsillectomy). Given the association between childhood OSA and severe asthma and given the involvement of airway inflammation in both conditions, might adenotonsillectomy also improve childhood asthma? Here, the researchers analyze data from the MarketScan database, a large database of US patients with private health insurance, to investigate whether adenotonsillectomy is associated with improvements in asthma outcomes and with reductions in the use of asthma therapies in children.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the database to identify 13,506 children with asthma who had undergone adenotonsillectomy and to obtain information about asthma outcomes among these children for the year before and the year after the operation. Because asthma severity tends to decrease with age, the researchers also used the database to identify 27,012 age-, sex-, and geographically matched children with asthma who did not have the operation so that they could examine asthma outcomes over an equivalent two-year period in the absence of complications related to adenotonsillar hypertrophy. Comparing the year after adenotonsillectomy with the year before the operation, adenotonsillectomy was associated with a 30% reduction in acute asthma exacerbations, a 37.9% reduction in acute status asthmaticus (an asthma attack that is unresponsive to the drugs usually used to treat attacks), a 25.6% reduction in asthma-related emergency room visits, and a 35.8% reduction in asthma-related hospitalizations. By contrast, among the control children, there was only a 2% reduction in acute asthma exacerbations and only a 7% reduction in acute status asthmaticus over an equivalent two-year period. Adenotonsillectomy was also associated with significant reductions (changes unlikely to have occurred by chance) in prescription refills for most types of drugs used to treat asthma, whereas there were no significant reductions in prescription refills among children with asthma who had not undergone adenotonsillectomy. The study was limited by the lack of measures of race and obesity, which are both associated with severity of asthma.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in a large sample of privately insured children in the US, adenotonsillectomy was associated with significant improvements in several asthma outcomes. These results do not show, however, that adenotonsillectomy caused a reduction in the severity of childhood asthma. It could be that the children who underwent adenotonsillectomy (but not those who did not have the operation) shared another unknown factor that led to improvements in their asthma over time. To prove a causal link, it will be necessary to undertake a randomized controlled trial in which the outcomes of groups of children with asthma who are chosen at random to undergo or not undergo adenotonsillectomy are compared. However, with the proviso that there are some risks associated with adenotonsillectomy, these findings suggest that the detection and treatment of adenotonsillar hypertrophy may help to improve asthma control in children.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001753.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on asthma, including videos, games, and links to other resources for children with asthma
The American Lung Association provides detailed information about asthma and a fact sheet on asthma in children; it also has information about obstructive sleep apnea
The National Sleep Foundation provides information on snoring and obstructive sleep apnea in children
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including some personal stories) about asthma, about asthma in children, and about obstructive sleep apnea
The “Global Asthma Report 2014” will be available in October 2014
MedlinePlus provides links to further information on asthma, on asthma in children, on sleep apnea, and on tonsils and adenoids (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001753
PMCID: PMC4219664  PMID: 25369282
9.  Characterizing Exposures to Nonpersistent Pesticides during Pregnancy and Early Childhood in the National Children’s Study: A Review of Monitoring and Measurement Methodologies 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2005;113(8):1092-1099.
The National Children’s Study is a proposed longitudinal cohort study to evaluate the relationships between children’s health and the environment. Enrollment is estimated to begin in September 2005, and 100,000 children will be followed from preconception or early pregnancy until adulthood. Among multiple health outcomes, the study is proposing to investigate whether pre- and/or postnatal exposures to nonpersistent pesticides increase the risk of poor performance on neurobehavioral and cognitive exams during infancy and early childhood. Characterization of exposures will be challenging. Nonpersistent pesticides include many chemicals with biologic half-lives on the order of hours or days. Exposures can occur through multiple pathways (e.g., food and residential or agriculture pesticide use) and by multiple routes (inhalation, ingestion, dermal). Effects may depend on the developmental stage when exposure occurs. Sequential sampling is likely to be required and may involve a combination of environmental and biologic monitoring as well as collection of questionnaire data. In this article we review measurements that can be used to characterize exposures. These include biologic markers, personal and indoor air sampling techniques, collection of dust, surface and dermal wipe samples, and dietary assessment tools. Criteria for sample selection will necessitate evaluation of the time frame of exposure captured by the measurement in relationship to critical windows of susceptibility, the cost and validity of the measurements, participant burden, and variability in exposure routes across populations and at different age periods.
doi:10.1289/ehp.7769
PMCID: PMC1280354  PMID: 16079084
biomonitoring; early childhood; environment; exposure assessment; in utero; National Children’s Study; pesticides
10.  Asthma and Farm Exposures in a Cohort of Rural Iowa Children 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2004;113(3):350-356.
Epidemiologic studies of farm children are of international interest because farm children are less often atopic, have less allergic disease, and often have less asthma than do nonfarm children—findings consistent with the hygiene hypothesis. We studied a cohort of rural Iowa children to determine the association between farm and other environmental risk factors with four asthma outcomes: doctor-diagnosed asthma, doctor-diagnosed asthma/medication for wheeze, current wheeze, and cough with exercise. Doctor-diagnosed asthma prevalence was 12%, but at least one of these four health outcomes was found in more than a third of the cohort. Multivariable models of the four health outcomes found independent associations between male sex (three asthma outcomes), age (three asthma outcomes), a personal history of allergies (four asthma outcomes), family history of allergic disease (two asthma outcomes), premature birth (one asthma outcome), early respiratory infection (three asthma outcomes), high-risk birth (two asthma outcomes), and farm exposure to raising swine and adding antibiotics to feed (two asthma outcomes). The high prevalence of rural childhood asthma and asthma symptoms underscores the need for asthma screening programs and improved asthma diagnosis and treatment. The high prevalence of asthma health outcomes among farm children living on farms that raise swine (44.1%, p = 0.01) and raise swine and add antibiotics to feed (55.8%, p = 0.013), despite lower rates of atopy and personal histories of allergy, suggests the need for awareness and prevention measures and more population-based studies to further assess environmental and genetic determinants of asthma among farm children.
doi:10.1289/ehp.7240
PMCID: PMC1253764  PMID: 15743727
agricultural occupational exposures; ammonia; animal feeding operations; asthma; asthma diagnosis and treatment; asthma health care policy; asthma school screening; asthma underdiagnosis; asthma undertreatment; children; chronic wheeze; cough with exercise; farming; genetic selection; hydrogen sulfide; hygiene hypothesis; odor; rural
11.  Approaches to environmental exposure assessment in children. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  1998;106(Suppl 3):827-832.
An improved understanding of the contribution made by environmental exposures to disease burden in children is essential, given current increasing rates of childhood illnesses such asthma and cancer. Children must be routinely included in environmental research. Exposure assessment, both external (e.g., air, water) and internal dose (e.g., biomarkers), is an integral component of such research. Biomarker measurement has some advantages that are unique in children. These include assessment of potentially increased absorption because of behaviors that differ from adults (i.e., hand-to-mouth activity); metabolite measurement, which can help identify age-related susceptibility differences; and improved assessment of dermal exposure, an important exposure route in children. Environmental exposure assessment in children will require adaption of techniques that are currently applied in adult studies as well as development of tools and validation of strategies that are unique for children. Designs that focus on parent-child study units provide adult comparison data and allow the parent to assist with more complex study designs. Use of equipment that is sized appropriately for children, such as small air pumps and badge monitors, is also important. When biomarkers are used, biologic specimens that can be obtained noninvasively are preferable. Although the current need is primarily for small focused studies to address specific questions and optimize research tools, the future will require establishment of large prospective cohorts. Urban children are an important study cohort because of relatively high morbidity observed in the urban environment. Finally, examples of completed or possible future studies utilizing these techniques are discussed for specific exposures such as benzene, environmental tobacco smoke, aflatoxin, volatile organic compounds, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
PMCID: PMC1533077  PMID: 9646045
12.  Preterm Birth and Childhood Wheezing Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001596.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Jasper Been and colleagues investigate the association between preterm birth and the development of wheezing disorders in childhood.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Accumulating evidence implicates early life factors in the aetiology of non-communicable diseases, including asthma/wheezing disorders. We undertook a systematic review investigating risks of asthma/wheezing disorders in children born preterm, including the increasing numbers who, as a result of advances in neonatal care, now survive very preterm birth.
Methods and Findings
Two reviewers independently searched seven online databases for contemporaneous (1 January 1995–23 September 2013) epidemiological studies investigating the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders. Additional studies were identified through reference and citation searches, and contacting international experts. Quality appraisal was undertaken using the Effective Public Health Practice Project instrument. We pooled unadjusted and adjusted effect estimates using random-effects meta-analysis, investigated “dose–response” associations, and undertook subgroup, sensitivity, and meta-regression analyses to assess the robustness of associations.
We identified 42 eligible studies from six continents. Twelve were excluded for population overlap, leaving 30 unique studies involving 1,543,639 children. Preterm birth was associated with an increased risk of wheezing disorders in unadjusted (13.7% versus 8.3%; odds ratio [OR] 1.71, 95% CI 1.57–1.87; 26 studies including 1,500,916 children) and adjusted analyses (OR 1.46, 95% CI 1.29–1.65; 17 studies including 874,710 children). The risk was particularly high among children born very preterm (<32 wk gestation; unadjusted: OR 3.00, 95% CI 2.61–3.44; adjusted: OR 2.81, 95% CI 2.55–3.12). Findings were most pronounced for studies with low risk of bias and were consistent across sensitivity analyses. The estimated population-attributable risk of preterm birth for childhood wheezing disorders was ≥3.1%.
Key limitations related to the paucity of data from low- and middle-income countries, and risk of residual confounding.
Conclusions
There is compelling evidence that preterm birth—particularly very preterm birth—increases the risk of asthma. Given the projected global increases in children surviving preterm births, research now needs to focus on understanding underlying mechanisms, and then to translate these insights into the development of preventive interventions.
Review Registration
PROSPERO CRD42013004965
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks, but worldwide, more than 11% of babies are born before 37 weeks of gestation (the period during which a baby develops in its mother's womb). Preterm birth is a major cause of infant death—more than 1 million babies die annually from preterm birth complications—and the number of preterm births is increasing globally. Multiple pregnancies, infections, and chronic (long-term) maternal conditions such as diabetes can all cause premature birth, but the cause of many preterm births is unknown. The most obvious immediate complication that is associated with preterm birth is respiratory distress syndrome. This breathing problem, which is more common in early preterm babies than in near-term babies, occurs because the lungs of premature babies are structurally immature and lack pulmonary surfactant, a unique mixture of lipids and proteins that coats the inner lining of the lungs and helps to prevent the collapse of the small air sacs in the lungs that absorb oxygen from the air. Consequently, preterm babies often need help with their breathing and oxygen supplementation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Improvements in the management of prematurity mean that more preterm babies survive today than in the past. However, accumulating evidence suggests that early life events are involved in the subsequent development of non-communicable diseases (non-infectious chronic diseases). Given the increasing burden of preterm birth, a better understanding of the long-term effects of preterm birth is essential. Here, the researchers investigate the risks of asthma and wheezing disorders in children who are born preterm by undertaking a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and a meta-analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of several studies). Asthma is a chronic condition that is caused by inflammation of the airways. In people with asthma, the airways can react very strongly to allergens such as animal fur and to irritants such as cigarette smoke. Exercise, cold air, and infections can also trigger asthma attacks, which can sometimes be fatal. The symptoms of asthma include wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound during breathing), coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma cannot be cured, but drugs can relieve its symptoms and prevent acute asthma attacks.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 30 studies undertaken between 1995 and the present (a time span chosen to allow for recent changes in the management of prematurity) that investigated the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders in more than 1.5 million children. Across the studies, 13.7% of preterm babies developed asthma/wheezing disorders during childhood, compared to only 8.3% of babies born at term. Thus, the risk of preterm babies developing asthma or a wheezing disorder during childhood was 1.71 times higher than the risk of term babies developing these conditions (an unadjusted odds ratio [OR] of 1.71). In analyses that allowed for confounding factors—other factors that affect the risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders such as maternal smoking—the risk of preterm babies developing asthma or a wheezing disorder during childhood was 1.46 times higher than that of babies born at term (an adjusted OR of 1.46). Notably, compared to children born at term, children born very early (before 32 weeks of gestation) had about three times the risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders in unadjusted and adjusted analyses. Finally, the population-attributable risk of preterm birth for childhood wheezing disorders was more than 3.1%. That is, if no preterm births had occurred, there would have been more than a 3.1% reduction in childhood wheezing disorders.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings strongly suggest that preterm birth increases the risk of asthma and wheezing disorders during childhood and that the risk of asthma/wheezing disorders increases as the degree of prematurity increases. The accuracy of these findings may be affected, however, by residual confounding. That is, preterm children may share other, unknown characteristics that increase their risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders. Moreover, the generalizability of these findings is limited by the lack of data from low- and middle-income countries. However, given the projected global increases in children surviving preterm births, these findings highlight the need to undertake research into the mechanisms underlying the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders and the need to develop appropriate preventative and therapeutic measures.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001596.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
Nemours, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information (in English and Spanish) on premature babies and on asthma (including personal stories)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about premature labor and birth and a real story about having a preterm baby; it provides information about asthma in children (including real stories)
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has pages on preterm birth, asthma, asthma in children, and wheezing (in English and Spanish); MedlinePlus provides links to further information on premature birth, asthma, and asthma in children (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001596
PMCID: PMC3904844  PMID: 24492409
13.  Decreased Brain Volume in Adults with Childhood Lead Exposure 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e112.
Background
Although environmental lead exposure is associated with significant deficits in cognition, executive functions, social behaviors, and motor abilities, the neuroanatomical basis for these impairments remains poorly understood. In this study, we examined the relationship between childhood lead exposure and adult brain volume using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We also explored how volume changes correlate with historic neuropsychological assessments.
Methods and Findings
Volumetric analyses of whole brain MRI data revealed significant decreases in brain volume associated with childhood blood lead concentrations. Using conservative, minimum contiguous cluster size and statistical criteria (700 voxels, unadjusted p < 0.001), approximately 1.2% of the total gray matter was significantly and inversely associated with mean childhood blood lead concentration. The most affected regions included frontal gray matter, specifically the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Areas of lead-associated gray matter volume loss were much larger and more significant in men than women. We found that fine motor factor scores positively correlated with gray matter volume in the cerebellar hemispheres; adding blood lead concentrations as a variable to the model attenuated this correlation.
Conclusions
Childhood lead exposure is associated with region-specific reductions in adult gray matter volume. Affected regions include the portions of the prefrontal cortex and ACC responsible for executive functions, mood regulation, and decision-making. These neuroanatomical findings were more pronounced for males, suggesting that lead-related atrophic changes have a disparate impact across sexes. This analysis suggests that adverse cognitive and behavioral outcomes may be related to lead's effect on brain development producing persistent alterations in structure. Using a simple model, we found that blood lead concentration mediates brain volume and fine motor function.
Using magnetic resonance imaging to assess brain volumes, Kim Cecil and colleagues find that inner-city children with higher blood lead levels showed regions of decreased gray matter as adults.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Lead is a highly toxic metal that is present throughout the environment because of various human activities. In particular, for many years, large amounts of lead were used in paint, in solder for water pipes, in gasoline, and in ceramic glazes. But, as the harmful health effects of lead have become clear, its use in these and other products has been gradually phased out. Breathing air, drinking water, or eating food that contains lead can damage almost every organ in the human body. The organ that is most sensitive to lead exposure is the brain, and children's brains are particularly vulnerable because they are still developing. Children who swallow large amounts of lead can develop widespread brain damage that causes convulsions and sometimes death. Children who are repeatedly exposed to low to moderate amounts of lead (e.g., through accidentally swallowing residues of old lead paint or contaminated soil) can develop learning or behavioral problems.
Why Was This Study Done?
Lead exposure has been linked with various types of brain damage. These include problems with thinking (cognition); difficulties with organizing actions, decisions, and behaviors (executive functions); abnormal social behavior (including aggression); and difficulties in coordinating fine movements, such as picking up small objects (fine motor control). However, we know little about how lead damages the brain in this way and little about which brain regions are affected by exposure to low to moderate levels of lead during childhood. In this study, the researchers wanted to test the possibility that childhood lead exposure might lead to shrinking (“volume loss”) parts of the brain, particularly the parts that are crucial to cognition and behavior. They therefore studied the relationship between childhood lead exposure and adult brain volume. They also explored whether there is a relationship between brain volume and measures of brain functioning, such as fine motor control, memory, and learning assessed during adolescence.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between 1979 and 1984, the researchers recruited babies born in poor areas of Cincinnati, where there were many old, lead-contaminated houses, into the Cincinnati Lead Study. They measured their blood lead levels regularly from birth until they were 78 months old and calculated each child's average blood lead level over this period. They then used brain scans (known as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI) to measure the brain volumes of the participants when they were 19–24 years old. The researchers found that exposure to lead as a child was linked with brain volume loss in adulthood, particularly in men. There was a “dose-response” effect—in other words, the greatest brain volume loss was seen in participants with the greatest lead exposure in childhood. The brain volume loss was most noticeable in a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex—especially a region called the “anterior cingulate cortex.” When they examined the relationship between brain volume and measures of brain functioning, they found a link between brain volume and fine motor control, but not with the other measures.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that childhood lead exposure is associated with brain volume loss in adults, in specific regions of the brain. These brain regions are responsible for executive functions, regulating behavior, and fine motor control. Lead exposure has a larger effect on brain volumes in men than in women, which might help to explain the higher incidence of antisocial behaviors among men than women. Overall, these findings may explain why children and adults who have a history of lead exposure have behavioral and other problems, and support ongoing efforts to reduce childhood lead exposure in the US and other countries.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050112.
A PLoS Medicine Perspective article by David Bellinger further discusses this study and a related paper on child exposure to lead and criminal arrests in adulthood
Toxtown, an interactive site from the US National Library of Medicine, provides information on environmental health concerns including exposure to lead (in English and Spanish)
The US Environmental Protection Agency provides information on lead in paint, dust, and soil and on protecting children from lead poisoning (in English and Spanish)
Medline Plus and the US National Library of Medicine Specialized Information Services provide lists of links to information on lead and human health (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
The UK Health Protection Agency also provides information about lead and its health hazards
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050112
PMCID: PMC2689675  PMID: 18507499
14.  Association of Prenatal and Childhood Blood Lead Concentrations with Criminal Arrests in Early Adulthood 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e101.
Background
Childhood lead exposure is a purported risk factor for antisocial behavior, but prior studies either relied on indirect measures of exposure or did not follow participants into adulthood to examine the relationship between lead exposure and criminal activity in young adults. The objective of this study was to determine if prenatal and childhood blood lead concentrations are associated with arrests for criminal offenses.
Methods and Findings
Pregnant women were recruited from four prenatal clinics in Cincinnati, Ohio if they resided in areas of the city with a high concentration of older, lead-contaminated housing. We studied 250 individuals, 19 to 24 y of age, out of 376 children who were recruited at birth between 1979 and 1984. Prenatal maternal blood lead concentrations were measured during the first or early second trimester of pregnancy. Childhood blood lead concentrations were measured on a quarterly and biannual basis through 6.5 y. Study participants were examined at an inner-city pediatric clinic and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Total arrests and arrests for offenses involving violence were collected from official Hamilton County, Ohio criminal justice records. Main outcomes were the covariate-adjusted rate ratios (RR) for total arrests and arrests for violent crimes associated with each 5 μg/dl (0.24 μmol/l) increase in blood lead concentration. Adjusted total arrest rates were greater for each 5 μg/dl (0.24 μmol/l) increase in blood lead concentration: RR = 1.40 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.07–1.85) for prenatal blood lead, 1.07 (95% CI 0.88–1.29) for average childhood blood lead, and 1.27 (95% CI 1.03–1.57) for 6-year blood lead. Adjusted arrest rates for violent crimes were also greater for each 5 μg/dl increase in blood lead: RR = 1.34 (95% CI 0.88–2.03) for prenatal blood lead, 1.30 (95% CI 1.03–1.64) for average childhood blood lead, and 1.48 (95% CI 1.15–1.89) for 6-year blood lead.
Conclusions
Prenatal and postnatal blood lead concentrations are associated with higher rates of total arrests and/or arrests for offenses involving violence. This is the first prospective study to demonstrate an association between developmental exposure to lead and adult criminal behavior.
Kim Dietrich and colleagues find an association between developmental exposure to lead and adult criminal behavior.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Violent crime is an increasing problem in many countries, but why are some people more aggressive than others? Being male has been identified as a risk factor for violent criminal behavior in several studies, as have exposure to tobacco smoke before birth, having antisocial parents, and belonging to a poor family. Another potential risk factor for antisocial behavior as an adult is exposure to lead during childhood, although few studies have looked directly at whether childhood lead exposure is linked with criminal behavior in adulthood. Lead is a toxic metal that damages the nervous system when ingested or inhaled. It is present throughout the environment because of its widespread use in the past in paint, solder for water pipes, and gasoline. In 1978, 13.5 million US children had a blood lead level above 10 μg/dl, the current US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blood lead level of concern (the average US blood lead level is 2 μg/dl). Lead paint and solder were banned in 1978 and 1986, respectively, by the US federal government; leaded gasoline was finally phased out in 1996. By 2002, only 310,000 US children had a blood lead level above 10 μg/dl. However, children exposed to lower levels of lead than this—through ingesting flakes or dust residues of old lead paint, for example—can have poor intellectual development and behavioral problems including aggression.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although some studies have suggested that childhood lead exposure is associated with later criminal behavior, these studies have often relied on indirect measurements of childhood lead exposure such as bone lead levels in young adults or a history of lead poisoning. Other studies that have measured childhood lead exposure directly have not followed their participants into adulthood. In this new study, the researchers investigate the association between actual measurements of prenatal and childhood blood lead concentrations and criminal arrests in early adulthood to get a clearer idea about whether early lead exposure is associated with subsequent violent behavior.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between 1979 and 1984, the researchers recruited pregnant women living in poor areas of Cincinnati, which had a high concentration of older, lead-contaminated housing, into the Cincinnati Lead Study. They measured the women's blood lead concentrations during pregnancy as an indication of their offspring's prenatal lead exposure and the children's blood lead levels regularly until they were six and half years old. They then obtained information from the local criminal justice records on how many times each of the 250 offspring had been arrested between becoming 18 years old and the end of October 2005. The researchers found that increased blood lead levels before birth and during early childhood were associated with higher rates of arrest for any reason and for violent crimes. For example, for every 5 μg/dl increase in blood lead levels at six years of age, the risk of being arrested for a violent crime as a young adult increased by almost 50% (the “relative risk” was 1.48).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide strong evidence that early lead exposure is a risk factor for criminal behavior, including violent crime, in adulthood. One possibility, which the authors were unable to assess in this study, is that lead exposure impairs intelligence, which in turn makes it more likely that a criminal offender will be caught (i.e., arrested). The authors discuss a number of limitations in their study—for example, they probably did not capture all criminal behavior (since most criminal behavior does not lead to arrest). Although both environmental lead levels and crime rates have dropped over the last 30 years in the US, the overall reduction was not uniform—inner-city children remain particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. The findings therefore suggest that a further reduction in childhood lead exposure might be an important and achievable way to reduce violent crime.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050101.
A PLoS Medicine Perspective article by David Bellinger further discusses this study and a related paper on childhood lead exposure and brain volume reduction in adulthood
Study researcher Kim Dietrich can be heard talking about “The Lethal Legacy of Lead”, a brief MP3 about lead exposure and violent crime
Toxtown, an interactive site from the US National Library of Medicine, provides information on environmental health concerns including exposure to lead (in English and Spanish)
The US Environmental Protection Agency provides information on lead in paint, dust, and soil and on protecting children from lead poisoning (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to information on lead poisoning (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
The UK Health Protection Agency also provides information about lead and its health hazards
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050101
PMCID: PMC2689664  PMID: 18507497
15.  Air Pollution Exposure Assessment for Epidemiologic Studies of Pregnant Women and Children: Lessons Learned from the Centers for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2005;113(10):1447-1454.
The National Children’s Study is considering a wide spectrum of airborne pollutants that are hypothesized to potentially influence pregnancy outcomes, neurodevelopment, asthma, atopy, immune development, obesity, and pubertal development. In this article we summarize six applicable exposure assessment lessons learned from the Centers for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research that may enhance the National Children’s Study: a) Selecting individual study subjects with a wide range of pollution exposure profiles maximizes spatial-scale exposure contrasts for key pollutants of study interest. b) In studies with large sample sizes, long duration, and diverse outcomes and exposures, exposure assessment efforts should rely on modeling to provide estimates for the entire cohort, supported by subject-derived questionnaire data. c) Assessment of some exposures of interest requires individual measurements of exposures using snapshots of personal and microenvironmental exposures over short periods and/or in selected microenvironments. d) Understanding issues of spatial–temporal correlations of air pollutants, the surrogacy of specific pollutants for components of the complex mixture, and the exposure misclassification inherent in exposure estimates is critical in analysis and interpretation. e) “Usual” temporal, spatial, and physical patterns of activity can be used as modifiers of the exposure/outcome relationships. f) Biomarkers of exposure are useful for evaluation of specific exposures that have multiple routes of exposure. If these lessons are applied, the National Children’s Study offers a unique opportunity to assess the adverse effects of air pollution on interrelated health outcomes during the critical early life period.
doi:10.1289/ehp.7673
PMCID: PMC1281294  PMID: 16203261
air pollution; airborne; ambient; Centers for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research; Children’s Centers; cohort study; direct measurement; exposure assessment; modeling; National Children’s Study; personal measurement
16.  Association between breast feeding and asthma in 6 year old children: findings of a prospective birth cohort study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1999;319(7213):815-819.
Objectives
To investigate the association between the duration of exclusive breast feeding and the development of asthma related outcomes in children at age 6 years.
Design
Prospective cohort study.
Setting
Western Australia.
Subjects
2187 children ascertained through antenatal clinics at the major tertiary obstetric hospital in Perth and followed to age 6 years.
Main outcome measures
Unconditional logistic regression to model the association between duration of exclusive breast feeding and outcomes related to asthma or atopy at 6 years of age, allowing for several important confounders: sex, gestational age, smoking in the household, and early childcare.
Results
After adjustment for confounders, the introduction of milk other than breast milk before 4 months of age was a significant risk factor for all asthma and atopy related outcomes in children aged 6 years: asthma diagnosed by a doctor (odds ratio 1.25, 95% confidence interval 1.02 to 1.52); wheeze three or more times since 1 year of age (1.41, 1.14 to 1.76); wheeze in the past year (1.31, 1.05 to 1.64); sleep disturbance due to wheeze within the past year (1.42, 1.07 to 1.89); age when doctor diagnosed asthma (hazard ratio 1.22, 1.03 to 1.43); age at first wheeze (1.36, 1.17 to 1.59); and positive skin prick test reaction to at least one common aeroallergen (1.30, 1.04 to 1.61).
Conclusion
A significant reduction in the risk of childhood asthma at age 6 years occurs if exclusive breast feeding is continued for at least the 4 months after birth. These findings are important for our understanding of the cause of childhood asthma and suggest that public health interventions to optimise breast feeding may help to reduce the community burden of childhood asthma and its associated traits.
Key messagesAsthma is the leading cause of admission to hospital in Australian children and its prevalence is increasingWhether breast feeding protects against asthma or atopy, or both, is controversialAsthma is a complex disease, and the relative risks between breast feeding and asthma or atopy are unlikely to be large; this suggests the need for investigation in a large prospective birth cohort with timely assessment of atopic outcomes and all relevant exposuresExclusive breast feeding for at least 4 months is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of asthma and atopy at age 6 years and with a significant delay in the age at onset of wheezing and asthma being diagnosed by a doctorPublic health interventions to promote an increased duration of exclusive breast feeding may help to reduce the morbidity and prevalence of childhood asthma and atopy
PMCID: PMC314207  PMID: 10496824
17.  Work-related asthma in Montreal, Quebec: Population attributable risk in a community-based study 
BACKGROUND:
Occupational exposures are an important cause of adult-onset asthma but the population attributable risk percentage (PAR%) has been less frequently studied.
OBJECTIVES:
To examine the distribution and determinants of adult asthma in six centres across Canada using data gathered in a community-based study.
METHODS:
Data were gathered in a community survey of 2959 adults using the European Community Respiratory Health Survey Protocol. A subsample of 498 subjects completed detailed health and occupational questionnaires, methacholine challenge tests and allergy skin tests. Asthma was defined in three ways: current wheeze, asthma symptoms and/or medication, and airway hyperresponsiveness. Occupational exposures were classified as sensitizers or irritants. Associations between asthma and occupational exposures were examined using logistic regression analysis. Model selection was based on the findings for current wheeze, and the same model was applied to the other definitions of asthma.
RESULTS:
Fifty-six per cent of subjects reported ever having had occupational exposure to sensitizers, and 9.8% to irritants. Current wheeze was associated with exposure to irritants (PAR% 4.54%), and airway hyperresponsiveness was associated with exposure to sensitizers (PAR% 30.7%). Neither a history of childhood asthma, atopy, nor confining the analysis to adult-onset asthma affected these associations. Analysis of effect modification suggested two types of work-related asthma: one due to exposure to occupational sensitizers, and the other due to exposure to irritants.
CONCLUSIONS:
Detailed assessment of past and current exposures is essential in the investigation of work-related asthma. Childhood asthma reactivated or aggravated by work exposures is not easy to distinguish from asthma induced by work, a misclassification that could lead to an underestimation of work-induced asthma. This should be taken into account in jurisdictions in which persons with work-aggravated asthma are not eligible for workers’ compensation.
PMCID: PMC2682161  PMID: 19107239
Healthy worker effect; Irritants; Population attributable risk; Sensitizers; Work-related asthma
18.  The effect of prenatal indoor pet exposure on the trajectory of total IgE in early childhood 
Background
The presence of pets in a home during the prenatal period and during early infancy has been associated with a lower prevalence of allergic sensitization and total IgE in middle childhood. No studies have examined the effect of pet exposure in a population-based cohort using multiple early life measures of serum total IgE.
Objective
To examine within-individual longitudinal trends in total IgE during early childhood and assess the effect of indoor prenatal pet exposure on those trends. Also, to employ a statistical method which was flexible enough to allow and account for unequally spaced study contacts and missing data.
Methods
Using the population-based Wayne County Health, Environment, Allergy and Asthma Longitudinal Study (WHEALS) birth cohort (62% African American), we analyzed 1187 infants with one to four measurements of total IgE collected from birth to 2 years of age. Effects of pet exposure on the shape and trajectory of IgE were assessed using a multilevel longitudinal model, accommodating repeated measures, missing data, and the precise time points of data collection.
Results
The best fit shape to the trajectory of IgE was non-linear, with an accelerated increase before 6 months. Total IgE was lower across the entire early life period when there was prenatal indoor pet exposure (p<0.001). This effect was statistically significantly stronger in children delivered by caesarean-section versus vaginally (p< 0.001 and p< 0.06, respectively) and in those born to non-African American (p< 0.001) versus African American mothers (p< 0.3).
Conclusion
Pet exposure and delivery mode may be markers of infant exposure to distinct microbiomes. The effect of exposures may vary by race, suggesting differential impact by ancestry.
doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2011.06.039
PMCID: PMC3185205  PMID: 21820714
total IgE; cohort; longitudinal; multilevel model
19.  Association of Secondhand Smoke Exposure with Pediatric Invasive Bacterial Disease and Bacterial Carriage: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000374.
Majid Ezzati and colleagues report the findings of a systematic review and meta-analysis that probes the association between environmental exposure to secondhand smoke and the epidemiology of pediatric invasive bacterial disease.
Background
A number of epidemiologic studies have observed an association between secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure and pediatric invasive bacterial disease (IBD) but the evidence has not been systematically reviewed. We carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of SHS exposure and two outcomes, IBD and pharyngeal carriage of bacteria, for Neisseria meningitidis (N. meningitidis), Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), and Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae).
Methods and Findings
Two independent reviewers searched Medline, EMBASE, and selected other databases, and screened articles for inclusion and exclusion criteria. We identified 30 case-control studies on SHS and IBD, and 12 cross-sectional studies on SHS and bacterial carriage. Weighted summary odd ratios (ORs) were calculated for each outcome and for studies with specific design and quality characteristics. Tests for heterogeneity and publication bias were performed. Compared with those unexposed to SHS, summary OR for SHS exposure was 2.02 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.52–2.69) for invasive meningococcal disease, 1.21 (95% CI 0.69–2.14) for invasive pneumococcal disease, and 1.22 (95% CI 0.93–1.62) for invasive Hib disease. For pharyngeal carriage, summary OR was 1.68 (95% CI, 1.19–2.36) for N. meningitidis, 1.66 (95% CI 1.33–2.07) for S. pneumoniae, and 0.96 (95% CI 0.48–1.95) for Hib. The association between SHS exposure and invasive meningococcal and Hib diseases was consistent regardless of outcome definitions, age groups, study designs, and publication year. The effect estimates were larger in studies among children younger than 6 years of age for all three IBDs, and in studies with the more rigorous laboratory-confirmed diagnosis for invasive meningococcal disease (summary OR 3.24; 95% CI 1.72–6.13).
Conclusions
When considered together with evidence from direct smoking and biological mechanisms, our systematic review and meta-analysis indicates that SHS exposure may be associated with invasive meningococcal disease. The epidemiologic evidence is currently insufficient to show an association between SHS and invasive Hib disease or pneumococcal disease. Because the burden of IBD is highest in developing countries where SHS is increasing, there is a need for high-quality studies to confirm these results, and for interventions to reduce exposure of children to SHS.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The deleterious health effects of smoking on smokers are well established, but smoking also seriously damages the health of nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke (SHS), which is released by burning cigarettes and exhaled by smokers, contains hundreds of toxic chemicals that increase the risk of adults developing lung cancer and heart disease. Children, however, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of SHS exposure (also known as passive smoking) because they are still developing physically. In addition, children have little control over their indoor environment and thus can be heavily exposed to SHS. Exposure to SHS increases the risk of ear infections, asthma, respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, and breathlessness), and lung infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis in young children and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome during the first year of life.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several studies have also shown an association between SHS exposure (which damages the lining of the mouth, throat, and lungs and decreases immune defenses) and potentially fatal invasive bacterial disease (IBD) in children. In IBD, bacteria invade the body and grow in normally sterile sites such as the blood (bacteremia) and the covering of the brain (meningitis). Three organisms are mainly responsible for IBD in children—Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), and Neisseria meningitidis. In 2000, S. pneumonia (pneumococcal disease) alone killed nearly one million children. Here, the researchers undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis of the association between SHS exposure in children and two outcomes—IBD and the presence of IBD-causing organisms in the nose and throat (bacterial carriage). A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; meta-analysis is a statistical method that combines the results of several studies. By combining data, it is possible to get a clearer view of the causes of a disease than is possible from individual studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 30 case-control studies that compared the occurrence of IBD over time in children exposed to SHS with its occurrence in children not exposed to SHS. They also identified 12 cross-sectional studies that measured bacterial carriage at a single time point in children exposed and not exposed to SHS. The researchers used the data from these studies to calculate a “summary odds ratio” (OR) for each outcome—a measure of how SHS exposure affected the likelihood of each outcome. Compared with children unexposed to SHS, exposure to SHS doubled the likelihood of invasive meningococcal disease (a summary OR for SHS exposure of 2.02). Summary ORs for invasive pneumococcal disease and Hib diseases were 1.21 and 1.22, respectively. However, these small increases in the risk of developing these IBDs were not statistically significant unlike the increase in the risk of developing meningococcal disease. That is, they might have occurred by chance. For bacterial carriage, summary ORs for SHS exposure were 1.68 for N. meningitidis, 1.66 for S. pneumonia (both these ORs were statistically significant), and 0.96 for Hib (a nonsignificant decrease in risk).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that SHS exposure is significantly associated with invasive meningococcal disease among children. However, the evidence that SHS exposure is associated with invasive pneumococcal and Hib disease is only suggestive. These findings also indicate that exposure to SHS is associated with an increased carriage of N. meningitidis and S. pneumoniae. The accuracy and generalizability of these findings is limited by the small number of studies identified, by the lack of studies from developing countries where SHS exposure is increasing and the burden of IBD is high, and by large variations between the studies in how SHS exposure was measured and IBD diagnosed. Nevertheless, they suggest that, by reducing children's exposure to SHS (by, for example, persuading parents not to smoke at home), the illness and death caused by IBDs among children could be greatly reduced. Such a reduction would be particularly welcome in developing countries where vaccination against IBDs is low.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000374.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on secondhand smoke, on children and secondhand smoke exposure, on meningitis, and on Hib infection
The US Environmental Protection Agency also provides information on the health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke (in English and Spanish) and a leaflet (also in English and Spanish) entitled Secondhand Tobacco Smoke and the Health of Your Family
The US Office of the Surgeon General provides information on the health consequences of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke
The World Health Organization provides a range of information on the global tobacco epidemic
The World Health Organization has information on meningococcal disease (in English only) and on Hib (in several languages)
The US National Foundation for Infectious Diseases provides a fact sheet on pneumococcal disease
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000374
PMCID: PMC2998445  PMID: 21151890
20.  The Human Early-Life Exposome (HELIX): Project Rationale and Design 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2014;122(6):535-544.
Background: Developmental periods in early life may be particularly vulnerable to impacts of environmental exposures. Human research on this topic has generally focused on single exposure–health effect relationships. The “exposome” concept encompasses the totality of exposures from conception onward, complementing the genome.
Objectives: The Human Early-Life Exposome (HELIX) project is a new collaborative research project that aims to implement novel exposure assessment and biomarker methods to characterize early-life exposure to multiple environmental factors and associate these with omics biomarkers and child health outcomes, thus characterizing the “early-life exposome.” Here we describe the general design of the project.
Methods: In six existing birth cohort studies in Europe, HELIX will estimate prenatal and postnatal exposure to a broad range of chemical and physical exposures. Exposure models will be developed for the full cohorts totaling 32,000 mother–child pairs, and biomarkers will be measured in a subset of 1,200 mother–child pairs. Nested repeat-sampling panel studies (n = 150) will collect data on biomarker variability, use smartphones to assess mobility and physical activity, and perform personal exposure monitoring. Omics techniques will determine molecular profiles (metabolome, proteome, transcriptome, epigenome) associated with exposures. Statistical methods for multiple exposures will provide exposure–response estimates for fetal and child growth, obesity, neurodevelopment, and respiratory outcomes. A health impact assessment exercise will evaluate risks and benefits of combined exposures.
Conclusions: HELIX is one of the first attempts to describe the early-life exposome of European populations and unravel its relation to omics markers and health in childhood. As proof of concept, it will form an important first step toward the life-course exposome.
Citation: Vrijheid M, Slama R, Robinson O, Chatzi L, Coen M, van den Hazel P, Thomsen C, Wright J, Athersuch TJ, Avellana N, Basagaña X, Brochot C, Bucchini L, Bustamante M, Carracedo A, Casas M, Estivill X, Fairley L, van Gent D, Gonzalez JR, Granum B, Gražulevičienė R, Gutzkow KB, Julvez J, Keun HC, Kogevinas M, McEachan RR, Meltzer HM, Sabidó E, Schwarze PE, Siroux V, Sunyer J, Want EJ, Zeman F, Nieuwenhuijsen MJ. 2014. The Human Early-Life Exposome (HELIX): project rationale and design. Environ Health Perspect 122:535–544; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1307204
doi:10.1289/ehp.1307204
PMCID: PMC4048258  PMID: 24610234
21.  Improved Exposure Characterization with Robotic (PIPER) Sampling and Association with Children's Respiratory Symptoms, Asthma and Eczema 
Background/objectives
Particulate matter (PM) and its constituents are recognized risk factors for the development of respiratory symptoms and illness in children. Most measurements of exposure have relied upon stationary indoor monitors (SIMs), overlooking the role of resuspended PM. To improve exposure characterization to resuspended aerosol particulate matter a recently developed methodology has been employed. The goal of this study is to characterize the resuspendable fraction of house dust and early childhood exposures to PM and its constituents in the child's home and compare conventional SIM and the Pre-toddler Inhalable Particulate Environmental Robotic (PIPER), an innovative mobile sampler. The study seeks to demonstrate that PIPER provides a more relevant estimate of exposure from inhalable particulate through improved correlation with respiratory symptoms in young children.
Methods
Seventy-five households with children between 3-59 months of age were recruited from clinics in central New Jersey. Demographic information and a health questionnaire based upon that used by the International Study of Allergies and Asthma in Childhood (ISAAC) and household data were collected. Household exposures to inhalable PM (PM100) and endotoxin were determined with simultaneous SIM and mobile (PIPER) sampling.
Results
Univariate and multivariate analyses were carried out. History of wheeze [’recent’ (<1 year) and ’ever’], cough, asthma, and eczema were evaluated. Multivariate analysis models included PM100 and endotoxin levels by tertiles of exposure. Risk of asthma for the highest tertile of PM100, as measured by PIPER (Odds Ratio = 4.2; 95% Confidence Interval 0.7 – 24.0) was compared to measurements by SIM (Odds Ratio = 0.7; 95% Confidence Interval 0.2 – 2.6).
Conclusions
Measurement of PM and its constituents with PIPER are more strongly associated with asthma, eczema and wheeze than measurements using SIMs. Application of this methodology may provide useful insights into early childhood exposures related to the etiology of childhood illnesses associated with inhalation exposures.
doi:10.1038/jes.2014.27
PMCID: PMC4311520  PMID: 24802555
22.  The Long-Term Health Consequences of Child Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, and Neglect: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(11):e1001349.
Rosana Norman and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the relationship between child physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect, and subsequent mental and physical health outcomes.
Background
Child sexual abuse is considered a modifiable risk factor for mental disorders across the life course. However the long-term consequences of other forms of child maltreatment have not yet been systematically examined. The aim of this study was to summarise the evidence relating to the possible relationship between child physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect, and subsequent mental and physical health outcomes.
Methods and Findings
A systematic review was conducted using the Medline, EMBASE, and PsycINFO electronic databases up to 26 June 2012. Published cohort, cross-sectional, and case-control studies that examined non-sexual child maltreatment as a risk factor for loss of health were included. All meta-analyses were based on quality-effects models. Out of 285 articles assessed for eligibility, 124 studies satisfied the pre-determined inclusion criteria for meta-analysis. Statistically significant associations were observed between physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect and depressive disorders (physical abuse [odds ratio (OR) = 1.54; 95% CI 1.16–2.04], emotional abuse [OR = 3.06; 95% CI 2.43–3.85], and neglect [OR = 2.11; 95% CI 1.61–2.77]); drug use (physical abuse [OR = 1.92; 95% CI 1.67–2.20], emotional abuse [OR = 1.41; 95% CI 1.11–1.79], and neglect [OR = 1.36; 95% CI 1.21–1.54]); suicide attempts (physical abuse [OR = 3.40; 95% CI 2.17–5.32], emotional abuse [OR = 3.37; 95% CI 2.44–4.67], and neglect [OR = 1.95; 95% CI 1.13–3.37]); and sexually transmitted infections and risky sexual behaviour (physical abuse [OR = 1.78; 95% CI 1.50–2.10], emotional abuse [OR = 1.75; 95% CI 1.49–2.04], and neglect [OR = 1.57; 95% CI 1.39–1.78]). Evidence for causality was assessed using Bradford Hill criteria. While suggestive evidence exists for a relationship between maltreatment and chronic diseases and lifestyle risk factors, more research is required to confirm these relationships.
Conclusions
This overview of the evidence suggests a causal relationship between non-sexual child maltreatment and a range of mental disorders, drug use, suicide attempts, sexually transmitted infections, and risky sexual behaviour. All forms of child maltreatment should be considered important risks to health with a sizeable impact on major contributors to the burden of disease in all parts of the world. The awareness of the serious long-term consequences of child maltreatment should encourage better identification of those at risk and the development of effective interventions to protect children from violence.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Child maltreatment—the abuse and neglect of children—is a global problem. There are four types of child maltreatment—sexual abuse (the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not understand, is unable to give consent to, or is not developmentally prepared for), physical abuse (the use of physical force that harms the child's health, survival, development, or dignity), emotional abuse (the failure to provide a supportive environment by, for example, verbally threatening the child), and neglect (the failure to provide for all aspects of the child's well-being). Most child maltreatment is perpetrated by parents or parental guardians, many of whom were maltreated themselves as children. Other risk factors for parents abusing their children include poverty, mental health problems, and alcohol and drug misuse. Although there is considerable uncertainty about the frequency and severity of child maltreatment, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) about 20% of women and 5%–10% of men report being sexually abused as children, and the prevalence of physical abuse in childhood may be 25%–50%.
Why Was This Study Done?
Child maltreatment has a large public health impact. Sometimes this impact is immediate and direct (injuries and deaths), but, more often, it is long-term, affecting emotional development and overall health. For child sexual abuse, the relationship between abuse and mental disorders in adult life is well-established. Exposure to other forms of child maltreatment has also been associated with a wide range of psychological and behavioral problems, but the health consequences of physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect have not been systematically examined. A better understanding of the long-term health effects of child maltreatment is needed to inform maltreatment prevention strategies and to improve treatment for children who have been abused or neglected. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers quantify the association between exposure to physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect in childhood and mental health and physical health outcomes in later life. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; a meta-analysis is a statistical approach that combines the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 124 studies that investigated the relationship between child physical abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect and various health outcomes. Their meta-analysis of data from these studies provides suggestive evidence that child physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect are causally linked to mental and physical health outcomes. For example, emotionally abused individuals had a three-fold higher risk of developing a depressive disorder than non-abused individuals (an odds ratio [OR] of 3.06). Physically abused and neglected individuals also had a higher risk of developing a depressive disorder than non-abused individuals (ORs of 1.54 and 2.11, respectively). Other mental health disorders associated with child physical abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect included anxiety disorders, drug abuse, and suicidal behavior. Individuals who had been non-sexually maltreated as children also had a higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases and/or risky sexual behavior than non-maltreated individuals. Finally, there was weak and inconsistent evidence that child maltreatment increased the risk of chronic diseases and lifestyle risk factors such as smoking.
What Do These Findings Mean?
By providing suggestive evidence of a causal link between non-sexual child maltreatment and mental health disorders, drug use, suicide attempts, and sexually transmitted diseases and risky sexual behavior, these findings contribute to our understanding of the non-injury health impacts of child maltreatment. Although most of the studies included in the meta-analysis were undertaken in high-income countries, the findings suggest that this link occurs in both high- and low-to-middle-income countries. They also suggest that neglect may be as harmful as physical and emotional abuse. However, they need to be interpreted carefully because of the limitations of this meta-analysis, which include the possibility that children who have been abused may share other, unrecognized factors that are actually the cause of their later mental health problems. Importantly, this confirmation that physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect in childhood are important risk factors for a range of health problems draws attention to the need to develop evidence-based strategies for preventing child maltreatment both to reduce childhood suffering and to alleviate an important risk factor for later health problems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001349.
The World Health Organization provides information on child maltreatment and its prevention (in several languages); Preventing Child Maltreatment: A Guide to Taking Action and Generating Evidence is a 2006 report produced by WHO and the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on child maltreatment and links to additional resources
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is a not-for-profit organization that aims to end all cruelty to children in the UK; Childline is a resource provided by the NSPCC that provides help, information, and support to children who are being abused
The Hideout is a UK-based website that helps children and young people understand domestic abuse
Childhelp is a US not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect; its website includes a selection of personal stories about child maltreatment
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001349
PMCID: PMC3507962  PMID: 23209385
23.  Characterization of occupational exposures to cleaning products used for common cleaning tasks-a pilot study of hospital cleaners 
Environmental Health  2009;8:11.
Background
In recent years, cleaning has been identified as an occupational risk because of an increased incidence of reported respiratory effects, such as asthma and asthma-like symptoms among cleaning workers. Due to the lack of systematic occupational hygiene analyses and workplace exposure data, it is not clear which cleaning-related exposures induce or aggravate asthma and other respiratory effects. Currently, there is a need for systematic evaluation of cleaning products ingredients and their exposures in the workplace. The objectives of this work were to: a) identify cleaning products' ingredients of concern with respect to respiratory and skin irritation and sensitization; and b) assess the potential for inhalation and dermal exposures to these ingredients during common cleaning tasks.
Methods
We prioritized ingredients of concern in cleaning products commonly used in several hospitals in Massachusetts. Methods included workplace interviews, reviews of product Materials Safety Data Sheets and the scientific literature on adverse health effects to humans, reviews of physico-chemical properties of cleaning ingredients, and occupational hygiene observational analyses. Furthermore, the potential for exposure in the workplace was assessed by conducting qualitative assessment of airborne exposures and semi-quantitative assessment of dermal exposures.
Results
Cleaning products used for common cleaning tasks were mixtures of many chemicals, including respiratory and dermal irritants and sensitizers. Examples of ingredients of concern include quaternary ammonium compounds, 2-butoxyethanol, and ethanolamines. Cleaning workers are at risk of acute and chronic inhalation exposures to volatile organic compounds (VOC) vapors and aerosols generated from product spraying, and dermal exposures mostly through hands.
Conclusion
Cleaning products are mixtures of many chemical ingredients that may impact workers' health through air and dermal exposures. Because cleaning exposures are a function of product formulations and product application procedures, a combination of product evaluation with workplace exposure assessment is critical in developing strategies for protecting workers from cleaning hazards. Our task based assessment methods allowed classification of tasks in different exposure categories, a strategy that can be employed by epidemiological investigations related to cleaning. The methods presented here can be used by occupational and environmental health practitioners to identify intervention strategies.
doi:10.1186/1476-069X-8-11
PMCID: PMC2678109  PMID: 19327131
24.  A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Childhood Leukemia and Parental Occupational Pesticide Exposure 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2009;117(10):1505-1513.
Objectives
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of childhood leukemia and parental occupational pesticide exposure.
Data sources
Searches of MEDLINE (1950–2009) and other electronic databases yielded 31 included studies.
Data extraction
Two authors independently abstracted data and assessed the quality of each study.
Data synthesis
Random effects models were used to obtain summary odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). There was no overall association between childhood leukemia and any paternal occupational pesticide exposure (OR = 1.09; 95% CI, 0.88–1.34); there were slightly elevated risks in subgroups of studies with low total-quality scores (OR = 1.39; 95% CI, 0.99–1.95), ill-defined exposure time windows (OR = 1.36; 95% CI, 1.00–1.85), and exposure information collected after offspring leukemia diagnosis (OR = 1.34; 95% CI, 1.05–1.70). Childhood leukemia was associated with prenatal maternal occupational pesticide exposure (OR = 2.09; 95% CI, 1.51–2.88); this association was slightly stronger for studies with high exposure-measurement-quality scores (OR = 2.45; 95% CI, 1.68–3.58), higher confounder control scores (OR = 2.38; 95% CI, 1.56–3.62), and farm-related exposures (OR = 2.44; 95% CI, 1.53–3.89). Childhood leukemia risk was also elevated for prenatal maternal occupational exposure to insecticides (OR = 2.72; 95% CI, 1.47–5.04) and herbicides (OR = 3.62; 95% CI, 1.28–10.3).
Conclusions
Childhood leukemia was associated with prenatal maternal occupational pesticide exposure in analyses of all studies combined and in several subgroups. Associations with paternal occupational pesticide exposure were weaker and less consistent. Research needs include improved pesticide exposure indices, continued follow-up of existing cohorts, genetic susceptibility assessment, and basic research on childhood leukemia initiation and progression.
doi:10.1289/ehp.0900582
PMCID: PMC2790502  PMID: 20019898
child; leukemia; meta-analysis; occupational exposure; pesticides
25.  Synergistic Effects of Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Exposure to Violence on Urban Asthma Etiology 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2007;115(8):1140-1146.
Background
Disproportionate life stress and consequent physiologic alteration (i.e., immune dysregulation) has been proposed as a major pathway linking socioeconomic position, environmental exposures, and health disparities. Asthma, for example, disproportionately affects lower-income urban communities, where air pollution and social stressors may be elevated.
Objectives
We aimed to examine the role of exposure to violence (ETV), as a chronic stressor, in altering susceptibility to traffic-related air pollution in asthma etiology.
Methods
We developed geographic information systems (GIS)–based models to retrospectively estimate residential exposures to traffic-related pollution for 413 children in a community-based pregnancy cohort, recruited in East Boston, Massachusetts, between 1987 and 1993, using monthly nitrogen dioxide measurements for 13 sites over 18 years. We merged pollution estimates with questionnaire data on lifetime ETV and examined the effects of both on childhood asthma etiology.
Results
Correcting for potential confounders, we found an elevated risk of asthma with a 1-SD (4.3 ppb) increase in NO2 exposure solely among children with above-median ETV [odds ratio (OR) = 1.63; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.14–2.33)]. Among children always living in the same community, with lesser exposure measurement error, this association was magnified (OR = 2.40; 95% CI, 1.48–3.88). Of multiple exposure periods, year-of-diagnosis NO2 was most predictive of asthma outcomes.
Conclusions
We found an association between traffic-related air pollution and asthma solely among urban children exposed to violence. Future studies should consider socially patterned susceptibility, common spatial distributions of social and physical environmental factors, and potential synergies among these. Prospective assessment of physical and social exposures may help determine causal pathways and critical exposure periods.
doi:10.1289/ehp.9863
PMCID: PMC1940095  PMID: 17687439
childhood asthma; exposure to violence (ETV); geographic information systems (GIS); intraurban variability; nitrogen dioxide (NO2); social–environmental synergy; stress

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