As a parent, there is nothing scarier than when your child has respiratory problems. Coupled with the inability of young children and infants to accurately describe their symptoms because of language development, wheezing causes a lot of anxiety in families. Even more frightening is that “wheezing at age 3, is an early warning sign of asthma and other pulmonary conditions,” according to UPI. New research published in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine from the University of Cincinnati (UC) has found that bacteria in dust from traffic and indoor air pollution causes persistent wheezing.
Previous research discovered that traffic pollution “reprograms” genes in utero and puts children at a greater risk for asthma, but this new study looks at dust caused by traffic rather than tailpipe emissions. According to researchers at UC’s College of Medicine:
“There is a clear synergistic effect from co-exposure to traffic-related particles and endotoxin above and beyond what you would see with a single exposure that can be connected to persistent wheezing by age 3,” explains Patrick Ryan, PhD, lead author of the study and a research assistant professor of environmental health at UC.“These two exposure sources—when simultaneously present at high levels—appear to work together to negatively impact the health of young children with developing lungs.”
The UC study is groundbreaking as the first one “to look at the combined effects of traffic-related exposures and sampled endotoxin in children during infancy as an indicator of asthma later in life.” Endotoxins are present in bacteria cell walls and are released after the bacteria dies. They have been though to be “less potent”; however, this new research demonstrates the damage they can cause to young children’s respiratory systems. Further research is needed to study “the effect of early versus later exposure to traffic-related particles”.
This study was conducted as part of a “long-term epidemiological study examining the effects of traffic particulates on childhood respiratory health and allergy development,” although indoor air pollution was included. Given the results, I wonder if my sometimes dusty house would produce similar effects, even though we live away from traffic. My eight-year-old daughter does wheeze at times; however, we have thought it more a nervous habit than a health problem, which her pediatrician agrees. I also wonder if the indoor air pollution in the homes of the children studied were a result of traffic or if they were present from other forms of dust.