7 January 2011
Previous studies have reported relationships between adverse respiratory health outcomes and residential proximity to traffic pollution, but have not shown this at a personal exposure level.
We compared, among inner-city children with asthma, the associations of adverse asthma outcome incidences with increased personal exposure to particulate matter mass ≤ 2.5 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM 2.5) air pollution versus the diesel-related carbonaceous fraction of PM 2.5.
Daily 24-hr personal samples of PM 2.5, including the elemental carbon (EC) fraction, were collected for 40 fifth-grade children with asthma at four South Bronx schools (10 children per school) during approximately 1 month each. Spirometry and symptom scores were recorded several times daily during weekdays.
We found elevated same-day relative risks of wheeze [1.45; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.03–2.04)], shortness of breath (1.41; 95% CI, 1.01–1.99), and total symptoms (1.30; 95% CI, 1.04–1.62) with an increase in personal EC, but not with personal PM 2.5 mass. We found increased risk of cough, wheeze, and total symptoms with increased 1-day lag and 2-day average personal and school-site EC. We found no significant associations with school-site PM 2.5 mass or sulfur. The EC effect estimate was robust to addition of gaseous pollutants.
Adverse health associations were strongest with personal measures of EC exposure, suggesting that the diesel “soot” fraction of PM 2.5 is most responsible for pollution-related asthma exacerbations among children living near roadways. Studies that rely on exposure to PM mass may underestimate PM health impacts.