Asthma symptoms worse among nation's poor, urban children

American children with asthma living in poor, urban areas are particularly vulnerable to respiratory health problems, a consequence of poor air quality in inner-city neighborhoods.

Fluctuations in air pollution levels, including motor vehicle exhaust and other pollutants, was closely associated with asthma symptoms and school absence among children in inner-city neighborhoods, according to a study published this month in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI). The JACI is the official journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Over the two-year study, George T. O’Connor, MD, and colleagues followed more than 850 children with asthma living in low-income areas of seven major U.S. urban communities – Boston, the Bronx, Chicago, Dallas, New York City, Seattle and Tucson.

Researchers measured regularly the children’s asthma symptoms, school absences and breathing function and compared it to daily outdoor pollution data. They found that asthma symptoms and asthma-related school absences increased following periods with higher concentrations of pollutants, including motor vehicle emissions (nitrogen dioxide), sulfur dioxide and fine particulate matter.

The adverse health effects were witnessed even when pollutant concentrations remained below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards – the federal measure at which pollutants are considered harmful to public health.

While air pollution is known to increase risk of severe asthma attacks, this new study shows adverse health effects are more evident among children in poor, urban neighborhoods. The study findings suggest this is due to the higher levels of air pollution, especially motor vehicle emissions, found in these inner-city areas.

Given the high prevalence of asthma among inner-city children, the study authors concluded their findings should have implications for environmental and transportation policies in urban areas.

The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 6,500 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries. The AAAAI serves as an advocate for public education through its Web site,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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