A prospective study of the impact of air pollution on respiratory symptoms and infections in infants

Georgette Stern, Philipp Latzin, Martin Röösli, Oliver Fuchs, Elena Proietti, Claudia Kuehni, Urs Frey*

*Corresponding author for this work
36 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: There is increasing evidence that short-term exposure to air pollution has a detrimental effect on respiratory health, but data from healthy populations, particularly infants, are scarce. Objectives: To assess the association of air pollution with frequency and severity of respiratory symptoms and infectionsmeasuredweekly in healthy infants. Methods: In a prospective birth cohort of 366 infants of unselected mothers, respiratory health was assessed weekly by telephone interviews during the first year of life (19,106 total observations). Daily mean levels of particulate matter (PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3) were obtained from local monitoring stations. We determined the association of the preceding week's pollutant levels with symptom scores and respiratory tract infections using a generalized additive mixed model with an autoregressive component. In addition,weassessedwhetherneonatal lung function influences this association and whether duration of infectious episodes differed between weeks with normal PM10 and weeks with elevated levels. Measurements and Main Results: We found a significant association between air pollution and respiratory symptoms, particularly in the week after respiratory tract infections (risk ratio, 1.13 [1.02-1.24] per 10 μg/m3 PM10 levels) and in infants with premorbid lung function. During times of elevated PM 10 (>33.3 μg/m3), duration of respiratory tract infections increased by 20% (95% confidence interval, 2-42%). Conclusions: Exposure to even moderate levels of air pollution was associated with increased respiratory symptoms in healthy infants. Particularly in infants with premorbid lung function and inflammation, air pollution contributed to longer duration of infectious episodes with a potentially large socioeconomic impact.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)1341-1348
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 15.06.2013

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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