Background: Evidence for environmental causes of asthma is limited, especially among African Americans. To look for systematic differences in early life domestic exposures between inner-city preschool children with and without asthma, we performed a study of home indoor air pollutants and allergens.
Methods: Children 2-6 years of age were enrolled in a cohort study in East Baltimore, Maryland. From the child's bedroom, air was monitored for 3 days for particulate matter <or= 2.5 and <or= 10 microm in aerodynamic diameter (PM(2.5), PM(10)), nitrogen dioxide, and ozone. Median baseline values were compared for children with (n = 150) and without (n = 150) asthma. Housing characteristics related to indoor air pollution were assessed by caregiver report and home inspection. In addition, indoor allergen levels were measured in settled dust.
Results: Children were 58% male, 91% African American, and 88% with public health insurance. Housing characteristics related to pollutant exposure and bedroom air pollutant concentrations did not differ significantly between asthmatic and control subjects [median: PM(2.5), 28.7 vs. 28.5 microg/m(3); PM(10), 43.6 vs. 41.4 microg/m(3); NO(2), 21.6 vs. 20.9 ppb; O(3), 1.4 vs. 1.8 ppb; all p > 0.05]. Settled dust allergen levels (cat, dust mite, cockroach, dog, and mouse) were also similar in bedrooms of asthmatic and control children.
Conclusions: Exposures to common home indoor pollutants and allergens are similar for inner-city preschool children with and without asthma. Although these exposures may exacerbate existing asthma, this study does not support a causative role of these factors for risk of developing childhood asthma.
Keywords: African American; air pollution; allergens; asthma; particulate matter; pediatric; urban.