The impact of sugar cane-burning emissions on the respiratory system of children and the elderly

Environ Health Perspect. 2006 May;114(5):725-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8485.


We analyzed the influence of emissions from burning sugar cane on the respiratory system during almost 1 year in the city of Piracicaba in southeast Brazil. From April 1997 through March 1998, samples of inhalable particles were collected, separated into fine and coarse particulate mode, and analyzed for black carbon and tracer elements. At the same time, we examined daily records of children (<13 years of age) and elderly people (>64 years of age) admitted to the hospital because of respiratory diseases. Generalized linear models were adopted with natural cubic splines to control for season and linear terms to control for weather. Analyses were carried out for the entire period, as well as for burning and nonburning periods. Additional models were built using three factors obtained from factor analysis instead of particles or tracer elements. Increases of 10.2 microg/m3 in particles<or=2.5 microm/m3 aerodynamic diameter (PM2.5) and 42.9 microg/m3 in PM10 were associated with increases of 21.4% [95% confidence interval (CI), 4.3-38.5] and 31.03% (95% CI, 1.25-60.21) in child and elderly respiratory hospital admissions, respectively. When we compared periods, the effects during the burning period were much higher than the effects during nonburning period. Elements generated from sugar cane burning (factor 1) were those most associated with both child and elderly respiratory admissions. Our results show the adverse impact of sugar cane burning emissions on the health of the population, reinforcing the need for public efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate this source of air pollution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Respiratory System / drug effects*
  • Saccharum*


  • Air Pollutants