RESEARCH SUPPORT, N.I.H., EXTRAMURAL
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, NON-P.H.S.
Outdoor air pollution, genetic susceptibility, and asthma management: opportunities for intervention to reduce the burden of asthma.
Outdoor air pollution at levels occurring in many urban areas around the world has substantial adverse effects on health. Children in general, and children with asthma in particular, are sensitive to the adverse effects of outdoor air pollutants, including ozone, nitrogen oxides, and respirable particulate matter. A growing number of studies also show that children living in environments near traffic have increased risks of new-onset asthma, asthma symptoms, exacerbations, school absences, and asthma-related hospitalizations. The large population of children exposed to high levels of outdoor air pollutants and the substantial risks for adverse health effects present unexploited opportunities to reduce the burden of asthma. Because the evidence indicates significant adverse effects of air pollution at current levels, there is clearly a need to reduce levels of regulated pollutants such as ozone, as well as unregulated pollutants in tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles. Achieving this long-term goal requires the active involvement of physicians and medical providers to ensure that the health of children is at the top of the list of competing priorities for regulatory policy decision-making. Clinical approaches include treatment to control asthma and patient education to reduce adverse effects of the disease. Reduction in exposures also can be approached at a policy level through changes in schools and school bus operations. Beyond clinical and public health approaches to reduce exposure, another strategy to be used before clean air goals are met is to decrease the susceptibility of children to air pollution. Emerging research indicates that dietary supplementation for individuals with low antioxidant levels is one promising approach to reducing susceptibility to air pollution. A second approach involves induction of enzymatic antioxidant defenses, especially for individuals with at-risk genetic variants of key antioxidant enzymes.
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