Objectives: This study sought individual-level data on diesel exhaust exposure and lung function among adolescents in Harlem as part of a community-driven research agenda.
Methods: High school students administered in-person surveys to seventh grade students to ascertain information on demographics, asthma history, and self-reported and maternal smoking. Urine samples were assayed for 1-hydroxypyrene (1-HP), a marker of diesel exhaust exposure, and cotinine, a marker of tobacco smoke exposure. Computer-assisted spirometry was used to measure lung function.
Results: Three quarters (76%) of the participating students had detectable levels of 1-HP. Three students (13%) had an FEF25-75 of less than or equal to 80% of their predicted measurements, and 4 students (17%) had results between 80% and 90% of the predicted value, all of which are suggestive of possible lung impairment.
Conclusions: These data suggest that most adolescents in Harlem are exposed to detectable levels of diesel exhaust, a known exacerbator and possible cause of chronic lung disorders such as asthma. Community-driven research initiatives are important for empowering communities to make needed changes to improve their environments and health.