Despite extensive evidence that air pollution affects childhood asthma, state-level and national-level tracking of asthma outcomes in relation to air pollution is limited.
Our goals were to evaluate the feasibility of linking the 2001 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), air monitoring, and traffic data; estimate associations between traffic density (TD) or outdoor air pollutant concentrations and childhood asthma morbidity; and evaluate the usefulness of such databases, linkages, and analyses to Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT).
We estimated TD within 500 feet of residential cross-streets of respondents and annual average pollutant concentrations based on monitoring station measurements. We used logistic regression to examine associations with reported asthma symptoms and emergency department (ED) visits/hospitalizations.
Assignment of TD and air pollution exposures for cross-streets was successful for 82% of children with asthma in Los Angeles and San Diego, California, Counties. Children with asthma living in high ozone areas and areas with high concentrations of particulate matter < 10 μm in aerodynamic diameter experienced symptoms more frequently, and those living close to heavy traffic reported more ED visits/hospitalizations. The advantages of the CHIS for asthma EPHT include a large and representative sample, biennial data collection, and ascertainment of important socio-demographic and residential address information. Disadvantages are its cross-sectional design, reliance on parental reports of diagnoses and symptoms, and lack of information on some potential confounders.
Despite limitations, the CHIS provides a useful framework for examining air pollution and childhood asthma morbidity in support of EPHT, especially because later surveys address some noted gaps. We plan to employ CHIS 2003 and 2005 data and novel exposure assessment methods to re-examine the questions raised here.