Background: Nitrogen dioxide (NO(2)) and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) have been associated with adverse respiratory effects.
Objective: We sought to assess the effect of NO(2) and ETS on asthma morbidity among children in inner-city environments.
Methods: Asthmatic children between the ages of 4 and 9 years had exposure to NO(2) and ETS measured by using Palmes tubes in the home and urinary cotinine. A baseline interview and telephone assessments at 3, 6, and 9 months evaluated health service use, asthma symptoms, and peak flow rates.
Results: Gas stoves were present in 87.8% of 469 homes. The median level of indoor NO(2) was 29.8 ppb compared with the US national outdoor median of 18 ppb. Of 1444 children, 48% had urinary cotinine/creatinine ratios of greater than 30 ng/mg. The median level of the cotinine/creatinine ratio was 42.4 ng/mg in smoking homes compared with 18.0 ng/mg in nonsmoking homes. The relative risk for asthma symptoms with increased NO(2) exposure was 1.75 (95% CI, 1.10-2.78) in children who did not have positive skin test responses. Higher NO(2) exposure resulted in lower peak flows during colder months (relative risk, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.07-1.97). Higher ETS exposure in colder months was weakly associated with lower peak flows (relative risk, 1.21; 95% CI, 0.99-1.47). There was no effect of ETS exposure on symptoms or use of health care services.
Conclusion: Higher levels of indoor NO(2) are associated with increased asthma symptoms in nonatopic children and decreased peak flows.
Clinical implications: Interventions to reduce NO(2) exposure, such as venting of gas stoves, might help reduce asthma morbidity.