Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
The relationship between long-term exposure to air pollutants, especially with regard to photochemical air pollutants, and asthma prevalence in developed countries is controversial. The objective of this cross-sectional survey was to compare mean levels of the main gaseous air pollutants and prevalence rates of rhinitis, asthma, and asthmatic symptoms. It included 2445 children from the 8th and 9th school grades who had been living for at least 3 years in an area where some communities undergo the heaviest photochemical exposure in France. Data on rhinitis, asthmatic symptoms, and asthma prevalence were gathered with the ISAAC paper and video questionnaires. The relation between level of air pollutants and asthma was assessed first by comparison of crude prevalence rates (chi-square test), and then by simple regression analysis and multiple logistic regression analysis. No consistent association between mean SO2 and NO2 levels, and prevalence of rhinitis, asthma, or asthmatic symptoms could be demonstrated. In contrast, there were statistically significant associations between prevalence of asthmatic symptoms and mean ozone (O3) concentration. The interpretation of such findings is not straightforward, as these symptoms can be interpreted either as respiratory irritation due to exposure to nonspecific airway stimuli or as a true asthmatic state. Additional studies are required to clarify this important issue. In conclusion, this large cross-sectional epidemiologic survey performed in an area of high photochemical air pollution did demonstrate statistically significant associations between the prevalence of asthmatic symptoms and mean O3 concentration.
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