Objectives: The aim of the study was to investigate whether the level of exhaled nitric oxide (eNO) provides a more sensitive measure to assess adverse pulmonary effects of air pollution than conventional lung function indices.
Method: The non-selected cohort studied consisted of 68 children (aged 10-11 years) living in an urban environment. For 7 weeks respiratory complaints were reported daily by these children in a diary, and lung function measures and eNO levels were determined in the children once a week on days with various level of air pollution.
Results: During the study the increase in the levels of the various air pollutants was positively associated with eNO (6% to 31% increase; P<0.05) but not with lung function measures. In contrast to the lung function measures, the prevalence of respiratory symptoms such as "sore throat", "runny nose", "having a cold", and "sick at home" were positively associated with the level of eNO measured in the following week.
Conclusions: Though clinically very meaningful, functional pulmonary measures appear to be too course to detect relatively mild clinical symptoms in response to exposure to air pollution. In an epidemiological setting the increase in eNO may represent a more suitable measure to assess such adverse effects.