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Asthma Symptoms Linked to Soot from Diesel Trucks in So. Bronx

udy were: PS 154, MS 302, CS 152 and MS 201. Ten elementary school children with asthma from each of the four schools were followed for a month. Data on respiratory symptoms, lung function, activity patterns, as well as personal air pollution exposures were collected at the same time.

According to the study, among all of the children the daily average exposure to tiny particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) ranged from 20 to 50 micrograms per cubic meter. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed daily limit of 35 micrograms per cubic meter was exceeded on about one-third of the study days. Only about 10 percent of the total mass of tiny particles was diesel soot, but it was this portion that was most closely related to children’s adverse health effects.

Particles smaller than 2.5 microns (a human hair is 100 microns thick) have been mostly closely linked to lung and heart disease. The EPA has regulated PM2.5 since 1997, limiting each person’s average exposure per year to no more than 15 micrograms per cubic meter.

Other studies have shown that people who live near highways have a higher incidence of asthma. But researchers had not measured levels of traffic air pollutants that individuals were being exposed to. “We went in and actually measured personal exposures to traffic pollution, which had not been done before. Our results confirm that diesel soot particles in air pollution are causing exacerbations of asthma in children,” says George Thurston, Sc.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, one of the study’s principal researchers.

The major type of air pollutant that was associated with symptoms of asthma was elemental carbon. This type of carbon, called black soot, is found in diesel exhaust and is a component of particulate matter in pollution that is smaller than 2.5 microns. This type of carbon has been cited as a causal agent in asthma in a numb
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