A study from the Karolinska Institute of Environmental Medicine, in Stockholm, analyzed data on air pollution exposure and lung function in the first and 15th years of life among 2,415 adolescents in Sweden.
The researchers focused on nitrogen oxide in vehicle exhaust and particulate matter from road erosion, using road traffic, topography and weather conditions to classify pollution levels. They compared this data to the level of difficulty the teens experienced getting air through their peripheral airways, termed “resistance”.
The study found that breathing problems increased for teenagers each time their exposure as infants to such pollution increased by 10 micrograms per cubic meter, with the strongest association occurring in male subjects with asthma at age 16. The same increase was not present in relation to their exposure to traffic pollution as teenagers.
Lead author Erica S. Schultz, Ph.D., says, “An increasing number of studies demonstrate the importance of airway periphery for lung health. It’s concerning that the effect from the first year of life seems to be long-lasting, although we don’t yet know the full clinical implications.”