We investigated the short-term effects of particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter <10 μg/m(3) (PM(10)), sulfur dioxide (SO(2)), nitrogen dioxide (NO(2)) and ozone (O(3)) on pediatric asthma emergency admissions in Athens, Greece over the period 2001-2004. We explored effect modification patterns by season, sex, age and by the presence of desert dust transported mainly from the Sahara area. We used daily time-series data provided by the children's hospitals and the fixed monitoring stations. The associations were investigated using Poisson regression models controlling for seasonality, weather, influenza episodes, day of the week and holiday effects. A 10 μg/m(3) increase in PM(10) was associated with a 2.54% increase (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.06%, 5.08%) in the number of pediatric asthma hospital admissions, while the same increase in SO(2) was associated with a 5.98% (95% CI: 0.88%, 11.33%) increase. O(3) was associated with a statistically significant increase in asthma admissions among older children in the summer. Our findings provide limited evidence of an association between NO(2) exposure and asthma exacerbation. Statistically significant PM(10) effects were higher during winter and during desert dust days, while SO(2) effects occurred mainly during spring. Our study confirms previously reported PM(10) effects on emergency hospital admissions for pediatric asthma and further provides evidence of stronger effects during desert dust days. We additionally report severe effects of SO(2), even at today's low concentration levels.
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