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newsrel -- Higher ‘asthma burden’ among minorities, low-income groups tied to increased exposure to air pollution

Posted: 13 Mar 2013 15:59:20
UCLA study funded by California Air Resources Board. 

Contact: Melanie Turner
PIO Phone: 916-322-2990
E-mail: mturner@arb.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – A new study finds that low-income populations and
racial and ethnic minorities (Latino, African-American and
Asian/Pacific Islander/other) were exposed to greater levels of
certain air pollutants and, in turn, suffered increases in
asthma-related difficulties, from asthma attacks and daily
medication use to work absences and emergency room visits.

The new study was led by Dr. Ying-Ying Meng, co-director of the
Chronic Disease Program at the UCLA Center for Health Policy
Research, and funded by the Air Resources Board.

Previous research has shown that children, the elderly, racial
and ethnic minorities and low-income Californians suffer
disproportionately from asthma burdens, such as asthma attacks
and asthma-like symptoms. This latest study sought to determine
whether the asthma burden disparity is due to exposure to higher
levels of air pollutants, greater vulnerability, or both.
Vulnerability refers to external factors, such as socioeconomic
status, residential location and occupational exposure, which
influence the risk of adverse health effects related to exposure
to air pollution.

The investigators found that certain populations had higher
exposures to nitrogen dioxide or particulate matter, though they
were not exposed to greater levels of ozone pollution

They also found that lower-income children (living below 200
percent of the federal poverty level), including Latino and
American Indian/Alaska Native children, and African-American and
Asian/Pacific Islander adults and children, are more vulnerable
to the effects of air pollution exposures compared to high income
(living at or above 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level)
white children and adults of the same ages.

Among lower-income asthmatic children, the odds of visiting an
emergency room more than doubled for every increase in nitrogen
dioxide by 10 parts per billion. Similar two-fold increases were
observed relating to the odds of African American adults
experiencing daily or weekly asthma symptoms and the odds of
Asian/Pacific Islander adults missing two or more days of work
per week.

Investigators also observed:

•	Asthma or asthma-symptom sufferers who lived within 750 feet of
roadways with high traffic density had increases in
asthma-related trips to the emergency room. 

•	Positive associations between asthma outcomes and the number of
days for which air quality exceeded state or federal standards
for ozone and particulate matter.

•	Compared to white children, American Indian/Alaska Native and
Asian/Pacific Islander/other children had a greater increase in
the odds of experiencing daily or weekly asthma symptoms for the
same increase in nitrogen dioxide. Latino children had a greater
increase in the odds of using daily asthma medication for the
same increase in PM10, and African-American and Asian/Pacific
Islander/other children had greater increases in the odds of
daily or weekly symptoms than white children for a comparable
increase in PM10.

In all, about 3.5 million adults and 900,000 children in
California have been diagnosed with asthma. Millions more suffer
from asthma-like breathing problems.

The UCLA study matched health impact data from the California
Health Interview Survey to existing air pollutant and traffic
data. Annual pollutant averages for particulate matter, ozone and
nitrogen dioxide were calculated for 54,000 Californians’ home
addresses using data from nearby air monitoring stations.

Some practical ways to reduce exposure to particulate matter
pollution can be found at

More information on the study can be found at

ARB’s mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare
and ecological resources through effective reduction of air
pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the
economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in
California to attain and maintain health-based air quality

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