Background: Nitrogen dioxide (NO(2)) or home gas appliance use has been inconsistently associated with adverse respiratory outcomes in childhood.
Objectives: (i) To examine the contribution of home gas appliance type and personal NO(2) exposure. (ii) To examine the relationship between NO(2) exposure and child lung function and respiratory history. (iii) To assess whether these relationships vary by house dust mite sensitization status.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 344 children (71% of the eligible group) with a mean age of 9.1 years from four randomly selected schools in the Australian Capital Territory from July to September 1999. Study measurements included a parental questionnaire, NO(2) exposure by passive gas samplers, skin prick testing for 10 aeroallergens and lung function at rest and after cold air challenge.
Results: Total NO(2) exposure was low with a mean concentration of 10.1 ppb. No associations were found between NO(2) exposure or gas appliance use and asthma, wheeze or baseline lung function. Personal NO(2) exposure was associated with a reduction in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1)/forced vital capacity (FVC) after cold air challenge (adjusted difference - 0.12% (- 0.23% to - 0.01%) per 1 ppb increase). After exclusion of children who had home heating changed because of asthma, gas heater use was also significantly associated with a reduction in this measure (adjusted difference - 2.0% (- 3.7% to - 0.2%)). There was some evidence that these reductions were greater among the non-mite-sensitized children.
Conclusions: The effect of low-level NO(2) exposure on these respiratory outcomes was not marked. The possible effect of low-level NO(2) exposure on non-specific bronchial reactivity requires confirmation. Future studies on NO(2) and respiratory health should include measures of house dust mite sensitization and bronchial hyper-responsiveness.