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Traffic Seems to Make Kids' Asthma Worse

Analysis of Atlanta data links pollutants to ER visits

THURSDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- Air pollution from city traffic appears to increase asthma attacks in kids that require an emergency room visit, a new study reports.

The effect was found to be strongest during the warmer parts of the year.

The researchers who conducted the study, done in Atlanta, were trying to pinpoint which components of pollution play the biggest role in making asthma worse.

"Characterizing the associations between ambient air pollutants and pediatric asthma exacerbations, particularly with respect to the chemical composition of particulate matter, can help us better understand the impact of these different components and can help to inform public health policy decisions," the study's lead author, Matthew J. Strickland, an assistant professor of environmental health at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, said in a news release from the American Thoracic Society.

The researchers examined the medical records of children 5 to 17 years old who had been treated in Atlanta-area emergency rooms from 1993 to 2004 because of asthma attacks. Data were gathered from more than 90,000 asthma-related visits.

They then analyzed connections between the visits and daily data on the levels of 11 different pollutants.

The researchers found signs that ozone worsens asthma, as they had expected. But they also found indications that components of pollution that comes from combustion engines, such as those in cars and trucks, were also linked to serious asthma problems in kids.

Results of the study were published online April 22 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on asthma.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, April 22, 2010

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