Increased asthma and respiratory symptoms in children exposed to petrochemical pollution

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Mar;123(3):632-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2008.09.052. Epub 2008 Dec 25.


Background: Epidemiologic studies show statistical associations between levels of air pollutants and respiratory outcomes.

Objective: We sought to determine the effects of exposure to petrochemical pollution on the respiratory health of children.

Methods: Children aged 6 to 12 years living close to the petrochemical plants in La Plata, Argentina (n = 282), were compared with those living in a region with exposure to heavy traffic (n = 270) or in 2 relatively nonpolluted areas (n = 639). Parents answered a validated questionnaire providing health and demographic data. A random sample (n = 181) had lung function measured. Particulate matter and outdoor and indoor volatile organic compound levels were measured during 4-week study periods and reported as overall means for each study area.

Results: Children living near the petrochemical plant had more asthma (24.8% vs 10.1% to 11.5%), more asthma exacerbations (6.7 vs 2.9-3.6 per year), more respiratory symptoms (current wheeze, dyspnea, nocturnal cough, and rhinitis), and lower lung function (>13% decrease in FEV(1) percent predicted) than those living in other regions. Length of residence in the area was a significant risk factor, but age, sex, body mass index, proximity to busy roads and other nonpetrochemical industries, length of breast-feeding, and socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of children or their families were not.

Conclusion: Exposure to particulate matter and volatile organic compounds arising from petrochemical plants but not from high traffic density was associated ith worse respiratory health in children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution*
  • Alkanes / toxicity
  • Argentina / epidemiology
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Cycloparaffins / toxicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic / toxicity
  • Male
  • Petroleum / toxicity*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Alkanes
  • Cycloparaffins
  • Hydrocarbons, Aromatic
  • Petroleum