Background: The emerging consensus that exposure to near-roadway traffic-related pollution causes asthma has implications for compact urban development policies designed to reduce driving and greenhouse gases.
Objectives: We estimated the current burden of childhood asthma-related disease attributable to near-roadway and regional air pollution in Los Angeles County (LAC) and the potential health impact of regional pollution reduction associated with changes in population along major traffic corridors.
Methods: The burden of asthma attributable to the dual effects of near-roadway and regional air pollution was estimated, using nitrogen dioxide and ozone as markers of urban combustion-related and secondary oxidant pollution, respectively. We also estimated the impact of alternative scenarios that assumed a 20% reduction in regional pollution in combination with a 3.6% reduction or 3.6% increase in the proportion of the total population living near major roads, a proxy for near-roadway exposure.
Results: We estimated that 27,100 cases of childhood asthma (8% of total) in LAC were at least partly attributable to pollution associated with residential location within 75 m of a major road. As a result, a substantial proportion of asthma-related morbidity is a consequence of near-roadway pollution, even if symptoms are triggered by other factors. Benefits resulting from a 20% regional pollution reduction varied markedly depending on the associated change in near-roadway proximity.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that there are large and previously unappreciated public health consequences of air pollution in LAC and probably in other metropolitan areas with dense traffic corridors. To maximize health benefits, compact urban development strategies should be coupled with policies to reduce near-roadway pollution exposure.
air pollution; asthma; burden of disease; children; compact urban growth; risk assessment; vehicle emissions
Rationale: Emerging evidence indicates that psychosocial stress enhances the effect of traffic exposure on the development of asthma.
Objectives: We hypothesized that psychosocial stress would also modify the effect of traffic exposure on lung function deficits.
Methods: We studied 1,399 participants in the Southern California Children's Health Study undergoing lung function testing (mean age, 11.2 yr). We used hierarchical mixed models to assess the joint effect of traffic-related air pollution and stress on lung function.
Measurements and Main Results: Psychosocial stress in each child's household was assessed based on parental response to the perceived stress scale (range, 0–16) at study entry. Exposures to nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and total oxides of nitrogen (NOx), surrogates of the traffic-related pollution mixture, were estimated at schools and residences based on a land-use regression model. Among children from high-stress households (parental perceived stress scale >4) deficits in FEV1 of 4.5 (95% confidence interval, −6.5 to −2.4) and of 2.8% (−5.7 to 0.3) were associated with each 21.8 ppb increase in NOx at homes and schools, respectively. These pollutant effects were significantly larger in the high-stress compared with lower-stress households (interaction P value 0.007 and 0.05 for residential and school NOx, respectively). No significant NOx effects were observed in children from low-stress households. A similar pattern of association was observed for FVC. The observed associations for FEV1 and FVC remained after adjusting for sociodemographic factors and after restricting the analysis to children who do not have asthma.
Conclusions: A high-stress home environment is associated with increased susceptibility to lung function effects of air pollution both at home and at school.
parental stress; traffic exposure; lung function; children
Diesel exhaust particles (DEP) contribute substantially to ambient particulate matter (PM) air pollution in urban areas. Inhalation of PM has been associated with increased incidence of lung disease in susceptible populations. We have demonstrated that the glutathione S-transferase M1 (GSTM1) null genotype could aggravate DEP-induced airway inflammation in human subjects. Given the critical role airway epithelial cells play in the pathogenesis of airway inflammation, we established the GSTM1 deficiency condition in primary bronchial epithelial cells from human volunteers with GSTM1 sufficient genotype (GSTM1+) using GSTM1 shRNA to determine whether GSTM1 deficiency could exaggerate DEP-induced expression of interleukin-8 (IL-8) and IL-1β proteins. Furthermore, the mechanisms underlying GSTM1 regulation of DEP-induced IL-8 and IL-1β expression were also investigated.
IL-8 and IL-1β protein levels were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. GSTM1 deficiency in primary human bronchial epithelial cells was achieved using lentiviral GSTM1 shRNA particles and verified using real-time polymerase chain reaction and immunoblotting. Intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) production was evaluated using flow cytometry. Phosphorylation of protein kinases was detected using immunoblotting.
Exposure of primary human bronchial epithelial cells (GSTM1+) to 25-100 μg/ml DEP for 24 h significantly increased IL-8 and IL-1β protein expression. Knockdown of GSTM1 in these cells further elevated DEP-induced IL-8 and IL-1β expression, implying that GSTM1 deficiency aggravated DEP-induced pro-inflammatory response. DEP stimulation induced the phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and Akt, the downstream kinase of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K), in GSTM1+ bronchial epithelial cells. Pharmacological inhibition of ERK kinase and PI3K activity blocked DEP-induced IL-8 and IL-1β expression. DEP-induced ERK and Akt phosphorylation could be increased by GSTM1 knockdown. In addition, pretreatment of HBEC with the antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine significantly inhibited DEP-induced ERK and Akt phosphorylation, and subsequent IL-8 and IL-1β expression.
GSTM1 regulates DEP-induced IL-8 and IL-1β expression in primary human bronchial epithelial cells by modulation of ROS, ERK and Akt signaling.
Diesel exhaust particles; ROS; GSTM1; ERK; Akt
Rationale: The impact of asthma on chronic lung function deficits is well known. However, there has been little study of ethnic differences in these asthma-associated deficits.
Objectives: To examine whether there are ethnic differences in the effects of asthma on children's lung function.
Methods: We evaluated the impact of asthma on lung function in 3,245 Hispanic and non-Hispanic white school children (age 10–18 yr) in a longitudinal analysis of the Southern California Children's Health Study. Sex-specific mixed-effects regression spline models were fitted separately for each ethnic group.
Measurements and Main Results: Large deficits in flows were observed among children with asthma diagnosed before age 4 years regardless of ethnicity. Hispanic girls with asthma had greater deficits in flows than non-Hispanic girls and were largest for maximal midexpiratory flow (−5.13% compared with −0.58%, respectively). A bigger impact of asthma in Hispanic girls was also found for FEV1, FEF75, and PEF (P value 0.04, 0.07, and 0.005, respectively). These ethnic differences were limited to girls diagnosed after age 4 years. In boys, asthma was also associated with greater deficits in flows among Hispanic than in non-Hispanic white children (differences that were not statistically significant). Ethnic differences in prevalence of pets and pests in the home, health insurance coverage, parental education, and smoking did not explain the pattern of lung function differences.
Conclusions: Larger asthma-associated lung function deficits in Hispanics, especially among girls, merit further investigation to determine public health implications and to identify causes amenable to intervention.
Hispanics; non-Hispanic whites; pulmonary function; asthma
Little is known about environmental causes and contributing factors for autism. Basic science and epidemiologic research suggest that oxidative stress and inflammation may play a role in disease development. Traffic-related air pollution, a common exposure with established effects on these pathways, contains substances found to have adverse prenatal effects.
We examined the association between autism and proximity of residence to freeways and major roadways during pregnancy and near the time of delivery, as a surrogate for air pollution exposure.
Data were from 304 autism cases and 259 typically developing controls enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study. The mother’s address recorded on the birth certificate and trimester-specific addresses derived from a residential history obtained by questionnaire were geocoded, and measures of distance to freeways and major roads were calculated using ArcGIS software. Logistic regression models compared residential proximity to freeways and major roads for autism cases and typically developing controls.
Adjusting for sociodemographic factors and maternal smoking, maternal residence at the time of delivery was more likely be near a freeway (≤ 309 m) for cases than for controls [odds ratio (OR) = 1.86; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.04–3.45]. Autism was also associated with residential proximity to a freeway during the third trimester (OR = 2.22; CI, 1.16–4.42). After adjustment for socioeconomic and sociodemographic characteristics, these associations were unchanged. Living near other major roads at birth was not associated with autism.
Living near a freeway was associated with autism. Examination of associations with measured air pollutants is needed.
autism; epidemiology; gene-environment interaction; roadway proximity; traffic emissions
People’s time-location patterns are important in air pollution exposure assessment because pollution levels may vary considerably by location. A growing number of studies are using global positioning systems (GPS) to track people’s time-location patterns. Many portable GPS units that archive location are commercially available at a cost that makes their use feasible for epidemiological studies.
We evaluated the performance of five portable GPS data loggers and two GPS cell phones by examining positional accuracy in typical locations (indoor, outdoor, in-vehicle) and factors that influence satellite reception (building material, building type), acquisition time (cold and warm start), battery life, and adequacy of memory for data storage. We examined stationary locations (eg, indoor, outdoor) and mobile environments (eg, walking, traveling by vehicle or bus) and compared GPS locations to highly-resolved US Geological Survey (USGS) and Digital Orthophoto Quarter Quadrangle (DOQQ) maps.
The battery life of our tested instruments ranged from <9 hours to 48 hours. The acquisition of location time after startup ranged from a few seconds to >20 minutes and varied significantly by building structure type and by cold or warm start. No GPS device was found to have consistently superior performance with regard to spatial accuracy and signal loss. At fixed outdoor locations, 65%–95% of GPS points fell within 20-m of the corresponding DOQQ locations for all the devices. At fixed indoor locations, 50%–80% of GPS points fell within 20-m of the corresponding DOQQ locations for all the devices except one. Most of the GPS devices performed well during commuting on a freeway, with >80% of points within 10-m of the DOQQ route, but the performance was significantly impacted by surrounding structures on surface streets in highly urbanized areas.
All the tested GPS devices had limitations, but we identified several devices which showed promising performance for tracking subjects’ time location patterns in epidemiological studies.
global positioning systems; GPS; time activity
The interrelationships between air pollution, lung function and the incidence of childhood asthma have yet to be established. A study was undertaken to determine whether lung function is associated with new onset asthma and whether this relationship varies by exposure to ambient air pollutants.
A cohort of children aged 9–10 years without asthma or wheeze at study entry were identified from the Children's Health Study and followed for 8 years. The participants resided in 12 communities with a wide range of ambient air pollutants that were measured continuously. Spirometric testing was performed and a medical diagnosis of asthma was ascertained annually. Proportional hazard regression models were fitted to investigate the relationship between lung function at study entry and the subsequent development of asthma and to determine whether air pollutants modify these associations.
The level of airway flow was associated with new onset asthma. Over the 10th–90th percentile range of forced expiratory flow over the mid‐range of expiration (FEF25–75, 57.1%), the hazard ratio (HR) of new onset asthma was 0.50 (95% CI 0.35 to 0.71). This protective effect of better lung function was reduced in children exposed to higher levels of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter <2.5 μm (PM2.5). Over the 10th–90th percentile range of FEF25–75, the HR of new onset asthma was 0.34 (95% CI 0.21 to 0.56) in communities with low PM2.5 (<13.7 μg/m3) and 0.76 (95% CI 0.45 to 1.26) in communities with high PM2.5 (⩾13.7 μg/m3). A similar pattern was observed for forced expiratory volume in 1 s. Little variation in HR was observed for ozone.
Exposure to high levels of PM2.5 attenuates the protective effect of better lung function against new onset asthma.
Obesity is a risk factor for asthma, particularly in women, but few cohort studies have evaluated abdominal obesity, which reflects metabolic differences in visceral fat known to influence systemic inflammation. We examined the relationships of asthma prevalence with measures of abdominal obesity and adult weight gain, in addition to body mass index (BMI), in a large cohort of female teachers. We calculated prevalence odds ratios (ORs) for current asthma using multivariable linear modeling, adjusting for age, smoking, and race/ethnicity. Of the 88,304 women in the analyses, 13% (11,500) were obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) at baseline; 1,334 were extremely obese (BMI ≥ 40). Compared to those of normal weight, the adjusted OR for adult-onset asthma increased from 1.40 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.31, 1.49) for overweight women to 3.30 (95% CI: 2.85, 3.82) for extremely obese women. Large waist circumference (> 88 cm) was associated with increased asthma prevalence even among women with a normal BMI (OR = 1.37, 95% CI: 1.18, 1.59). Among obese women, the OR for asthma was greater among those who were also abdominally obese compared to women whose waist was ≤ 88 cm (2.36 vs. 1.57). Obese and overweight women were at greater risk of severe asthma episodes, measured by urgent medical visits and hospitalizations. This study confirms the association between excess weight and asthma severity and prevalence, and showed that a large waist was associated with increased asthma prevalence even among women considered to have normal body weight.
Asthma; Body Fat Distribution; Body Mass Index; Cohort Studies; Obesity; Prevalence
Traffic-related air pollution has been associated with adverse cardiorespiratory effects, including increased asthma prevalence. However, there has been little study of effects of traffic exposure at school on new-onset asthma.
We evaluated the relationship of new-onset asthma with traffic-related pollution near homes and schools.
Parent-reported physician diagnosis of new-onset asthma (n = 120) was identified during 3 years of follow-up of a cohort of 2,497 kindergarten and first-grade children who were asthma- and wheezing-free at study entry into the Southern California Children’s Health Study. We assessed traffic-related pollution exposure based on a line source dispersion model of traffic volume, distance from home and school, and local meteorology. Regional ambient ozone, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and particulate matter were measured continuously at one central site monitor in each of 13 study communities. Hazard ratios (HRs) for new-onset asthma were scaled to the range of ambient central site pollutants and to the residential interquartile range for each traffic exposure metric.
Asthma risk increased with modeled traffic-related pollution exposure from roadways near homes [HR 1.51; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.25–1.82] and near schools (HR 1.45; 95% CI, 1.06–1.98). Ambient NO2 measured at a central site in each community was also associated with increased risk (HR 2.18; 95% CI, 1.18–4.01). In models with both NO2 and modeled traffic exposures, there were independent associations of asthma with traffic-related pollution at school and home, whereas the estimate for NO2 was attenuated (HR 1.37; 95% CI, 0.69–2.71).
Traffic-related pollution exposure at school and homes may both contribute to the development of asthma.
air pollution; asthma; child; epidemiology; vehicular traffic
Because asthma has been associated with exercise and ozone exposure, an association likely mediated by oxidative stress, we hypothesized that GSTP1, GSTM1, exercise and ozone exposure have inter-related effects on asthma pathogenesis.
We examined associations of the well characterized null variant of GSTM1 and four SNPs that characterized common variation in GSTP1 with new-onset asthma in a cohort of 1,610 school children. Children’s exercise and ozone-exposure status were classified using participation in team sports and community-specific ozone levels, respectively.
A two SNP model (rs6591255, rs1695 [Ile105Val]) best captured the association between GSTP1 and asthma. Compared to children with common alleles for both the SNPs, the risk of asthma was lower for those with the Val allele of Ile105Val (HR 0.60, 95% CI 0.4, 0.8) and higher for the variant allele of rs6591255 (HR 1.40, 95%CI 1.1–1.9). Asthma risk increased with level of exercise among ile105 homozygotes but not among those with at least one val105 allele (interaction p-value=0.02). Risk was highest among ile105 homozygotes who participated in ≥3 sports in the high-ozone communities (HR: 6.15, 95%CI: 2.2–7.4). GSTM1 null was independently associated with asthma and showed little variation with air pollution or GSTP1 genotype. These results were consistent in two independent fourth-grade cohorts in the study population recruited in 1993 and 1996.
Children who inherit a val105 variant allele may be protected from the increased risk of asthma associated with exercise, especially in high-ozone communities. GSTM1 null genotype was associated with increased risk of asthma.
Oxidative stress; Candidate gene; Asthma genetics; Gene-environmental interaction; Air pollution
Variations in air pollution exposure within a community may be associated with asthma prevalence. However, studies conducted to date have produced inconsistent results, possibly due to errors in measurement of the exposures.
A standardized asthma survey was administered to children in grades one and eight in Hamilton, Canada, in 1994–95 (N ~1467). Exposure to air pollution was estimated in four ways: (1) distance from roadways; (2) interpolated surfaces for ozone, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrous oxides from seven to nine governmental monitoring stations; (3) a kriged nitrogen dioxide (NO2) surface based on a network of 100 passive NO2 monitors; and (4) a land use regression (LUR) model derived from the same monitoring network. Logistic regressions were used to test associations between asthma and air pollution, controlling for variables including neighbourhood income, dwelling value, state of housing, a deprivation index and smoking.
There were no significant associations between any of the exposure estimates and asthma in the whole population, but large effects were detected the subgroup of children without hayfever (predominately in girls). The most robust effects were observed for the association of asthma without hayfever and NO2LUR OR = 1.86 (95%CI, 1.59–2.16) in all girls and OR = 2.98 (95%CI, 0.98–9.06) for older girls, over an interquartile range increase and controlling for confounders.
Our findings indicate that traffic-related pollutants, such as NO2, are associated with asthma without overt evidence of other atopic disorders among female children living in a medium-sized Canadian city. The effects were sensitive to the method of exposure estimation. More refined exposure models produced the most robust associations.
Rationale: Although oxidative stress is a cardinal feature of asthma, the roles of oxidant air pollutants and antioxidant genes heme oxygenase 1 (HMOX-1), catalase (CAT), and manganese superoxide dismutase (MNSOD) in asthma pathogenesis have yet to be determined.
Objectives: We hypothesized that the functional polymorphisms of HMOX-1 ([GT]n repeat), CAT (−262C>T −844C>T), and MNSOD (Ala-9Val) are associated with new-onset asthma, and the effects of these variants vary by exposure to ozone, a potent oxidant air pollutant.
Methods: We assessed this hypothesis in a population-based cohort of non-Hispanic (n = 1,125) and Hispanic white (n = 586) children who resided in 12 California communities and who were followed annually for 8 years to ascertain new-onset asthma.
Measurements and Main Results: Air pollutants were continuously measured in each of the study communities during the 8 years of study follow-up. HMOX-1 “short” alleles (<23 repeats) were associated with a reduced risk for new-onset asthma among non-Hispanic whites (hazard ratio [HR], 0.64; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.41–0.99). This protective effect was largest in children residing in low-ozone communities (HR, 0.48; 95% CI, 0.25–0.91) (interaction P value = 0.003). Little evidence for an association with HMOX-1 was observed among Hispanic children. In contrast, Hispanic children with a variant of the CAT-262 “T” allele (CT or TT) had an increased risk for asthma (HR, 1.78; P value = 0.01). The effects of these polymorphisms were not modified by personal smoking or secondhand-smoke exposure.
Conclusions: Functional promoter variants in CAT and HMOX-1 showed ethnicity-specific associations with new-onset asthma. Oxidant gene protection was restricted to children living in low-ozone communities.
asthma; catalase; heme oxygenase-1; MnSOD; oxidative stress; ozone
Recent studies have examined the presence of mouse allergen in inner city children with asthma. Researchers have found high levels of rodent allergen in homes sampled in the northeast and midwest United States, but there has been considerable variation between cities, and there have been few studies conducted in western states. We evaluated the frequency of rodent sightings and detectable mouse allergen and the housing conditions associated with these outcomes in inner city homes in Los Angeles. Two hundred and two families of school children, ages 6–16 living in inner city neighborhoods, participated in the study. Families were predominantly Latino (94%), and Spanish speaking (92%). At study entry, parents completed a home assessment questionnaire, and staff conducted a home evaluation and collected kitchen dust, which was analyzed for the presence of mouse allergen. Fifty-one percent of homes had detectable allergen in kitchen dust. All 33 families who reported the presence of rodents had detectable allergen in the home and were also more likely to have increased levels of allergen compared to those who did not report rodents. Unwashed dishes or food crumbs, lack of a working vacuum, and a caretaker report of a smoker in the home were all significantly associated with a greater risk of rodent sightings or detectable allergen (P < 0.05). Detached homes were significantly more likely to have detectable allergen. The prevalence of allergen is common enough that it may have public health implications for asthmatic children, and detectable allergen was not routinely identified based on rodent sightings. Many of the predictors of rodent allergen are amenable to low-cost interventions that can be integrated with other measures to reduce exposure to indoor allergens.
Asthma; Mouse allergen; House dust; Rodent; Environment
Rationale: Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 is involved in airway inflammation and remodeling, two key processes in asthma pathogenesis. Tobacco smoke and traffic emissions induce airway inflammation and modulate TGF-β1 gene expression. We hypothesized that the effects of functional TGF-β1 variants on asthma occurrence vary by these exposures.
Objectives: We tested these hypotheses among 3,023 children who participated in the Children's Health Study.
Methods: Tagging single-nucleotide polymorphisms rs4803457 C>T and C-509T (a functional promoter polymorphism) accounted for 94% of the haplotype diversity of the upstream region. Exposure to maternal smoking in utero was based on smoking by biological mother during pregnancy. Residential distance from nearest freeway was calculated based on residential address at study entry.
Measurements and Main Results: Children with the −509TT genotype had a 1.8-fold increased risk of early persistent asthma (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11–2.95). This association varied marginally significantly by in utero exposure to maternal smoking. Compared with children with the −509CC/CT genotype with no in utero exposure to maternal smoking, those with the −509TT genotype with such exposure had a 3.4-fold increased risk of early persistent asthma (95% CI, 1.46–7.80; interaction, P = 0.11). The association between TGF-β1 C-509T and lifetime asthma varied by residential proximity to freeways (interaction P = 0.02). Children with the −509TT genotype living within 500 m of a freeway had over three-fold increased lifetime asthma risk (95% CI, 1.29–7.44) compared with children with CC/CT genotype living > 1500 m from a freeway.
Conclusions: Children with the TGF-β1 −509TT genotype are at increased risk of asthma when they are exposed to maternal smoking in utero or to traffic-related emissions.
maternal smoking; traffic; asthma; genetics; gene–environment interaction; association study
The question of whether air pollution contributes to asthma onset remains unresolved.
In this study, we assessed the association between asthma onset in children and traffic-related air pollution.
We selected a sample of 217 children from participants in the Southern California Children’s Health Study, a prospective cohort designed to investigate associations between air pollution and respiratory health in children 10–18 years of age. Individual covariates and new asthma incidence (30 cases) were reported annually through questionnaires during 8 years of follow-up. Children had nitrogen dioxide monitors placed outside their home for 2 weeks in the summer and 2 weeks in the fall–winter season as a marker of traffic-related air pollution. We used multilevel Cox models to test the associations between asthma and air pollution.
In models controlling for confounders, incident asthma was positively associated with traffic pollution, with a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.29 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.07–1.56] across the average within-community interquartile range of 6.2 ppb in annual residential NO2. Using the total interquartile range for all measurements of 28.9 ppb increased the HR to 3.25 (95% CI, 1.35–7.85).
In this cohort, markers of traffic-related air pollution were associated with the onset of asthma. The risks observed suggest that air pollution exposure contributes to new-onset asthma.
air pollution; asthma onset; children; nitrogen dioxide
Rationale: In late October 2003, Southern California wildfires burned more than 3,000 km2. The wildfires produced heavy smoke that affected several communities participating in the University of Southern California Children's Health Study (CHS).
Objectives: To study the acute effects of fire smoke on the health of CHS participants.
Methods: A questionnaire was used to assess smoke exposure and occurrence of symptoms among CHS high-school students (n = 873; age, 17–18 yr) and elementary-school children (n = 5,551; age, 6–7 yr), in a total of 16 communities. Estimates of particulate matter (PM10) concentrations during the 5 d with the highest fire activity were used to characterize community smoke level.
Main Results: All symptoms (nose, eyes, and throat irritations; cough; bronchitis; cold; wheezing; asthma attacks), medication usage, and physician visits were associated with individually reported exposure differences within communities. Risks increased monotonically with the number of reported smoky days. For most outcomes, reporting rates between communities were also associated with the fire-related PM10 levels. Associations tended to be strongest among those without asthma. Individuals with asthma were more likely to take preventive action, such as wearing masks or staying indoors during the fire.
Conclusions: Exposure to wildfire smoke was associated with increased eye and respiratory symptoms, medication use, and physician visits.
air pollution; asthma; sore throat; wheezing
Rationale: Although involuntary exposure to maternal smoking during the in utero period and to secondhand smoke are associated with occurrence of childhood asthma, few studies have investigated the role of active cigarette smoking on asthma onset during adolescence.
Objectives: To determine whether regular smoking is associated with the new onset of asthma during adolescence.
Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study among 2,609 children with no lifetime history of asthma or wheezing who were recruited from fourth- and seventh-grade classrooms and followed annually in schools in 12 southern California communities. Regular smoking was defined as smoking at least seven cigarettes per day on average over the week before and 300 cigarettes in the year before each annual interview. Incident asthma was defined using new cases of physician-diagnosed asthma.
Measurements and Main Results: Regular smoking was associated with increased risk of new-onset asthma. Children who reported smoking 300 or more cigarettes per year had a relative risk (RR) of 3.9 (95% confidence interval [95% CI], 1.7–8.5) for new-onset asthma compared with nonsmokers. The increased risk from regular smoking was greater in nonallergic than in allergic children. Regular smokers who were exposed to maternal smoking during gestation had the largest risk from active smoking (RR, 8.8; 95% CI, 3.2–24.0).
Conclusions: Regular smoking increased risk for asthma among adolescents, especially for nonallergic adolescents and those exposed to maternal smoking during the in utero period.
asthma; epidemiology; smoking
Although numerous epidemiologic studies now use models of intraurban exposure, there has been little systematic evaluation of the performance of different models.
In this present article we proposed a modeling framework for assessing exposure model performance and the role of spatial autocorrelation in the estimation of health effects.
We obtained data from an exposure measurement substudy of subjects from the Southern California Children’s Health Study. We examined how the addition of spatial correlations to a previously described unified exposure and health outcome modeling framework affects estimates of exposure–response relationships using the substudy data. The methods proposed build upon the previous work, which developed measurement–error techniques to estimate long-term nitrogen dioxide exposure and its effect on lung function in children. In this present article, we further develop these methods by introducing between- and within-community spatial autocorrelation error terms to evaluate effects of air pollution on forced vital capacity. The analytical methods developed are set in a Bayesian framework where multistage models are fitted jointly, properly incorporating parameter estimation uncertainty at all levels of the modeling process.
Results suggest that the inclusion of residual spatial error terms improves the prediction of adverse health effects. These findings also demonstrate how residual spatial error may be used as a diagnostic for comparing exposure model performance.
air pollution; Bayesian analysis; lung function; measurement error; spatial exposure models
Rationale: Exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) has been associated with increased risk of respiratory illness in children including respiratory illness–related school absences. The role of genetic susceptibility in risk for adverse effects from SHS has not been extensively investigated in children.
Objective: To determine whether the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) G-308A genotype influences the risk for respiratory illness–related school absences associated with SHS exposure.
Methods: Incident school absences were collected, using an active surveillance system, between January and June 1996, as part of the Air Pollution and Absence Study, a prospective cohort study nested in the Children's Health Study. Buccal cells and absence reports were collected on 1,351 students from 27 elementary schools in California.
Measurements and Main Results: Illness-related school absences were classified as nonrespiratory and respiratory illness–related, which were further categorized into upper or lower respiratory illness–related absences based on symptoms. The effect of SHS exposure on respiratory illness–related absences differed by TNF genotype (p interaction, 0.02). In children possessing at least one copy of the TNF-308 A variant, exposure to two or more household smokers was associated with a twofold risk of a school absence due to respiratory illness (relative risk, 2.13; 95% confidence interval, 1.34, 3.40) and a fourfold risk of lower respiratory illness–related school absence (relative risk, 4.15; 95% confidence interval, 2.57, 6.71) compared with unexposed children homozygous for the common TNF-308 G allele.
Conclusions: These results indicate that a subgroup of genetically susceptible children are at substantially greater risk of respiratory illness if exposed to SHS.
epidemiology; school absence; second-hand smoke; TNF
The growing interest in the effects of contextual environments on health outcomes has focused attention on the strengths and weaknesses of alternate contextual unit definitions for use in multilevel analysis. The present research examined three methods to define contextual units for a sample of children already enrolled in a respiratory health study. The Inclusive Equal Weights Method (M1) and Inclusive Sample Weighted Method (M2) defined communities using the boundaries of the census blocks that incorporated the residences of the CHS participants, except that the former estimated socio-demographic variables by averaging the census block data within each community, while the latter used weighted proportion of CHS participants per block. The Minimum Bounding Rectangle Method (M3) generated minimum bounding rectangles that included 95% of the CHS participants and produced estimates of census variables using the weighted proportion of each block within these rectangles. GIS was used to map the locations of study participants, define the boundaries of the communities where study participants reside, and compute estimates of socio-demographic variables. The sensitivity of census variable estimates to the choice of community boundaries and weights was assessed using standard tests of significance.
The estimates of contextual variables vary significantly depending on the choice of neighborhood boundaries and weights. The choice of boundaries therefore shapes the community profile and the relationships between its components (variables).
Multilevel analysis concerned with the effects of contextual environments on health requires careful consideration of what constitutes a contextual unit for a given study sample, because the alternate definitions may have differential impact on the results. The three alternative methods used in this research all carry some subjectivity, which is embedded in the decision as to what constitutes the boundaries of the communities. The Minimum Bounding Rectangle was preferred because it focused attention on the most frequently used spaces and it controlled potential aggregation problems. There is a need to further examine the validity of different methods proposed here. Given that no method is likely to capture the full complexity of human-environment interactions, we would need baseline data describing people's daily activity patterns along with expert knowledge of the area to evaluate our neighborhood units.
Experimental data suggest that asthma exacerbation by ambient air pollutants is enhanced by exposure to endotoxin and allergens; however, there is little supporting epidemiologic evidence.
We evaluated whether the association of exposure to air pollution with annual prevalence of chronic cough, phlegm production, or bronchitis was modified by dog and cat ownership (indicators of allergen and endotoxin exposure). The study population consisted of 475 Southern California children with asthma from a longitudinal cohort of participants in the Children’s Health Study. We estimated average annual ambient exposure to nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter < 10, 2.5, and 10–2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10, PM2.5, and PM10–2.5, respectively), elemental and organic carbon, and acid vapor from monitoring stations in each of the 12 study communities. Multivariate models were used to examine the effect of yearly variation of each pollutant. Effects were scaled to the variability that is common for each pollutant in representative communities in Southern California.
Among children owning a dog, there were strong associations between bronchitic symptoms and all pollutants examined. Odds ratios ranged from 1.30 per 4.2 μg/m3 for PM10–2.5 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.91–1.87) to 1.91 per 1.2 μg/m3 for organic carbon (95% CI, 1.34–2.71). Effects were somewhat larger among children who owned both a cat and dog. There were no effects or small effects with wide CIs among children without a dog and among children who owned only a cat.
Our results suggest that dog ownership, a source of residential exposure to endotoxin, may worsen the relationship between air pollution and respiratory symptoms in asthmatic children.
air pollution; asthma; cats; child; dogs; endotoxin; epidemiology; indoor allergens; particulate matter
Results from studies of traffic and childhood asthma have been inconsistent, but there has been little systematic evaluation of susceptible subgroups. In this study, we examined the relationship of local traffic-related exposure and asthma and wheeze in southern California school children (5–7 years of age). Lifetime history of doctor-diagnosed asthma and prevalent asthma and wheeze were evaluated by questionnaire. Parental history of asthma and child’s history of allergic symptoms, sex, and early-life exposure (residence at the same home since 2 years of age) were examined as susceptibility factors. Residential exposure was assessed by proximity to a major road and by modeling exposure to local traffic-related pollutants. Residence within 75 m of a major road was associated with an increased risk of lifetime asthma [odds ratio (OR) = 1.29; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.01–1.86], prevalent asthma (OR = 1.50; 95% CI, 1.16–1.95), and wheeze (OR = 1.40; 95% CI, 1.09–1.78). Susceptibility increased in long-term residents with no parental history of asthma for lifetime asthma (OR = 1.85; 95% CI, 1.11–3.09), prevalent asthma (OR = 2.46; 95% CI, 0.48–4.09), and recent wheeze (OR = 2.74; 95% CI, 1.71–4.39). The higher risk of asthma near a major road decreased to background rates at 150–200 m from the road. In children with a parental history of asthma and in children moving to the residence after 2 years of age, there was no increased risk associated with exposure. Effect of residential proximity to roadways was also larger in girls. A similar pattern of effects was observed with traffic-modeled exposure. These results indicate that residence near a major road is associated with asthma. The reason for larger effects in those with no parental history of asthma merits further investigation.
air pollution; asthma; child; epidemiology; traffic
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.
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
The National Children’s Study will address, among other illnesses, the environmental causes of both incident asthma and exacerbations of asthma in children. Seven of the Centers for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research (Children’s Centers), funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, conducted studies relating to asthma. The design of these studies was diverse and included cohorts, longitudinal studies of older children, and intervention trials involving asthmatic children. In addition to the general lessons provided regarding the conduct of clinical studies in both urban and rural populations, these studies provide important lessons regarding the successful conduct of community research addressing asthma. They demonstrate that it is necessary and feasible to conduct repeated evaluation of environmental exposures in the home to address environmental exposures relevant to asthma. The time and staff required were usually underestimated by the investigators, but through resourceful efforts, the studies were completed with a remarkably high completion rate. The definition of asthma and assessment of disease severity proved to be complex and required a combination of questionnaires, pulmonary function tests, and biologic samples for markers of immune response and disease activity. The definition of asthma was particularly problematic in younger children, who may exhibit typical asthma symptoms sporadically with respiratory infections without developing chronic asthma. Medications confounded the definition of asthma disease activity, and must be repeatedly and systematically estimated. Despite these many challenges, the Children’s Centers successfully conducted long-term studies of asthma.
asthma; children; Children’s Centers; environmental health; National Children’s Study; pregnancy