Air Pollution Increases Asthma Symptoms in Children

Posted by Debbie Luyo on Apr.21, 2009

© - Sebastien Kaulitzki

© - Sebastien Kaulitzki

Air pollution makes breathing more difficult for people with respiratory problems, particularly for children with asthma. Toxic compounds in car exhaust and industrial pollutants can cause breathing problems and trigger asthma attacks. Childhood asthma has doubled in the United States since 1980. Having asthma can affect a child’s overall health, and is often a reason for restricted activities and missed school days. In poor urban communities asthma-related breathing problems comprise a significant number of hospital admissions.

Pollutants from car exhaust, including ground level ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide, from burning coal and crude, are known to trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. Recent scientific research has demonstrated that pollution affects kids with asthma, even when pollution levels fall within current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, and that despite the establishment of air quality standards and emission control programs in recent decades, air pollution is still a serious problem, and a major irritant for children with asthma, especially those who live in high traffic areas.

The BAMSE Project, administered by the Stockholm, Sweden, Department of Environmental Health, followed 4000 children from birth to the age of 12 to determine the effect of air pollution on respiratory function. The authors of the study found that children exposed to elevated pollution levels during the first year of life had an increased risk of developing asthma, pollen allergies, and impaired respiratory function. Researchers at Mexico’s Institute Nacional de Salud Publica found that traffic pollution made children more vulnerable to asthma attacks, and made the necessity for continued asthma-related medical attention much more likely. A study by physicians from Emory University found that children with asthma living in high-traffic areas in and around the town of Ciudad de Juarez, Mexico, had higher levels of exhaled nitrogen oxide, along with reduced lung volume and airflow, when compared to children without asthma.

A study of children in seven U.S. cities, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), and the Environmental Protection Agency, found that exposure to nitrogen dioxide, a component of car exhaust, was associated with increased asthma symptoms and asthma-related absences from school. Data from the study of kids with chronic asthma, living in low-income urban neighborhoods, indicated that children with asthma suffer adverse affects from air pollution even when levels fall within EPA standards.

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that four and five year olds with asthma in New York City who lived on tree-lined streets have lower rates of asthma, when compared with children living in areas with less tree density. More trees mean better air quality; therefore, the city of New York will plant one million new trees by 2017. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that 37 Italian children with asthma who lived in urban, high-traffic areas showed dramatically improved respiratory function following a week in a rural, less polluted environment. The study was the first of its kind to address the question of whether pollution-related respiratory damage is reversible.

The American Lung Association recommends that children with asthma limit outdoor time when air quality warnings have been posted, particularly during afternoon hours, when ozone levels are at their peak. These guidelines are even more critical for children living in high traffic areas. Data from these studies and others are evidence the clear and present threat to public health from air pollution. Clean air is essential for both children and adults, especially when asthma or other respiratory problems are an issue. There are a number of ways to help clean up the air. For more information, go to


Email, Print, & Share this story:
  • E-mail this story to a friend!
  • Print this article!
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Google
  • HealthRanker
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati


Posted under Family, GDM Kids, Tweens, Teens.

Article By: Debbie Luyo

Debbie Luyo

Profile: “I am a freelance writer living in Frederick, Maryland. My background is in science, and I love exploring the latest scientific and medical research. I am also interested in environmental issues, and I have passion for renewable energy.“


Latest posts by Debbie Luyo

4 comments for this entry:
  1. Alice Tyler

    Very helpful and informative article.

  2. Detoxdietguy

    nowadays there is too much pollution in the air. most of the pollution from the air comes from fossil fuels. maybe someday we woul use less and less of fossil fuesl in favor of clean and renewable energy sources.

  3. Dee Romack

    I think you could submit many more blogposts, me personally as well as my loved ones take pleasure in your web site and also sense were better educated after visiting.

  4. Jhon

    I like what you guys are up also. Such intelligent work and reporting! Carry on the excellent works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my web site :)

Leave a Reply

Need to find something?

Use the form below to search:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Leave a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Interested in Writing for GDM?


We're Social! Become our friend!

Join the conversation:

Put in your email address below:
When you join the Green Diva Mom Club you will receive a weekly free e-newsletter covering the latest green news, green tips, recipes, book reviews, product reviews and much more!