Fewer Adult-Related Respiratory Problems for Children Living Near Green Space

September 28, 2018

According to a recent study, children who have access to green spaces close to their homes have fewer respiratory problems, such as asthma and wheezing, in adulthood, compared with children who are exposed to air pollution.

Historically, little is known about the association between air pollution exposure among children and long-term respiratory problems in adulthood. A recent study, known as RHINESSA, examined lung health in children and adults in seven European countries, and that has information on residential "greenness" and air pollution exposures from birth onwards from several study centers.

The study, conducted by Ingrid Nordeide Kuiper, MD, from the Department of Occupational Medicine at Haukeland University Hospital in Norway, and colleagues analyzed greenness data from 5415 participants aged between 18 and 52 years. The researchers examined patients who experienced three respiratory symptoms, severe wheeze, and late onset asthma. The respiratory symptoms included chest wheezing or whistling; breathlessness when wheezing; wheezing or whistling without a cold; a tight chest on waking; being woken by an attack of shortness of breath; being woken by a cough; asthma attack; and taking asthma medicine.

Researchers calculated average annual exposure to three air pollutants: two sizes of fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) [3] from a child's birth until age 18. Further, they calculated annual average exposure to greenness in a 100-metre zone around the home address for the same period. The "greenness" was assessed by the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which uses satellite images to quantify the amount of vegetation in an area.

According to the findings, a total of 608 participant (12%) experienced more than 3 respiratory symptoms, 384 (7.7%) had severe wheeze, and 444 (9.4%) had late onset asthma.

"We need to analyze these findings further before drawing any definite conclusions. However, it is likely that our findings will substantially expand our knowledge on the long-term effects of air pollution and greenness, enabling physicians, scientists and policy-makers to see the importance of exposure to pollution and access to green spaces, and helping to improve public health," said Dr Kuiper in a press statement.

"We will be conducting further analyses that include more centers that are taking part in the RHINESSA study, and we also want to expand analyses to look at the effects of exposure to air pollution and greenness across generations."

The study findings were presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress.

Julie Gould

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