Rationale: The role of air pollution exposure in the development of asthma, allergies, and related symptoms remains unclear, due in part to the limited number of prospective cohort studies with sufficiently long follow-ups addressing this problem.
Objectives: We studied the association between traffic-related air pollution and the development of asthma, allergy, and related symptoms in a prospective birth cohort study with a unique 8-year follow-up.
Methods: Annual questionnaire reports of asthma, hay fever, and related symptoms during the first 8 years of life were analyzed for 3,863 children. At age 8, measurements of allergic sensitization and bronchial hyperresponsiveness were performed for subpopulations (n = 1,700 and 936, respectively). Individual exposures to nitrogen dioxide (NO(2)), particulate matter (PM(2.5)), and soot at the birth address were estimated by land-use regression models. Associations between exposure to traffic-related air pollution and repeated measures of health outcomes were assessed by repeated-measures logistic regression analysis. Effects are presented for an interquartile range increase in exposure after adjusting for covariates.
Measurements and main results: Annual prevalence was 3 to 6% for asthma and 12 to 23% for asthma symptoms. Annual incidence of asthma was 6% at age 1, and 1 to 2% at later ages. PM(2.5) levels were associated with a significant increase in incidence of asthma (odds ratio [OR], 1.28; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10-1.49), prevalence of asthma (OR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.04-1.51), and prevalence of asthma symptoms (OR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.02-1.28). Findings were similar for NO(2) and soot. Associations were stronger for children who had not moved since birth. Positive associations with hay fever were found in nonmovers only. No associations were found with atopic eczema, allergic sensitization, and bronchial hyperresponsiveness.
Conclusions: Exposure to traffic-related air pollution may cause asthma in children.