Background: The question of whether air pollution contributes to asthma onset remains unresolved.
Objectives: In this study, we assessed the association between asthma onset in children and traffic-related air pollution.
Methods: We selected a sample of 217 children from participants in the Southern California Children's Health Study, a prospective cohort designed to investigate associations between air pollution and respiratory health in children 10-18 years of age. Individual covariates and new asthma incidence (30 cases) were reported annually through questionnaires during 8 years of follow-up. Children had nitrogen dioxide monitors placed outside their home for 2 weeks in the summer and 2 weeks in the fall-winter season as a marker of traffic-related air pollution. We used multilevel Cox models to test the associations between asthma and air pollution.
Results: In models controlling for confounders, incident asthma was positively associated with traffic pollution, with a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.29 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.07-1.56] across the average within-community interquartile range of 6.2 ppb in annual residential NO2. Using the total interquartile range for all measurements of 28.9 ppb increased the HR to 3.25 (95% CI, 1.35-7.85).
Conclusions: In this cohort, markers of traffic-related air pollution were associated with the onset of asthma. The risks observed suggest that air pollution exposure contributes to new-onset asthma.
Keywords: air pollution; asthma onset; children; nitrogen dioxide.