Although studies have demonstrated that air pollution is associated with exacerbation of asthma symptoms in children with asthma, little is known about the susceptibility of subgroups, particularly those with atopy.
This study was designed to evaluate our a priori hypothesis that identifiable subgroups of asthmatic children are more likely to wheeze with exposure to ambient air pollution.
A cohort of 315 children with asthma, 6–11 years of age, was recruited for longitudinal follow-up in Fresno, California (USA). During the baseline visit, children were administered a respiratory symptom questionnaire and allergen skin-prick test. Three times a year, participants completed 14-day panels during which they answered symptom questions twice daily. Ambient air quality data from a central monitoring station were used to assign exposures to the following pollutants: particulate matter ≤ 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter, particulate matter between 2.5 and 10 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10–2.5), elemental carbon, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrate, and O3.
For the group as a whole, wheeze was significantly associated with short-term exposures to NO2 [odds ratio (OR) = 1.10 for 8.7-ppb increase; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.02–1.20] and PM10–2.5 (OR = 1.11 for 14.7-μg/m3 increase; 95% CI, 1.01–1.22). The association with wheeze was stronger for these two pollutants in children who were skin-test positive to cat or common fungi and in boys with mild intermittent asthma.
A pollutant associated with traffic emissions, NO2, and a pollutant with bioactive constituents, PM10–2.5, were associated with increased risk of wheeze in asthmatic children living in Fresno, California. Children with atopy to cat or common fungi and boys with mild intermittent asthma were the subgroups for which we observed the largest associations.