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Hospital admissions for asthma and acute bronchitis in El Paso, Texas: do age, sex, and insurance status modify the effects of dust and low wind events?

Sara E Grineski, Joan G Staniswalis, Priyangi Bulathsinhala, Yanlei Peng, Thomas E Gill
Environmental Research 2011, 111 (8): 1148-55
21782162

BACKGROUND: El Paso County (Texas) is prone to still air inversions and is one of the dust "hot spots" in North America. In this context, we examined the sub-lethal effects of airborne dust and low wind events on human respiratory health (i.e., asthma and acute bronchitis) between 2000 and 2003, when 110 dust and 157 low wind events occurred. Because environmental conditions may not affect everyone the same, we explored the effects of dust and low wind within three age groups (children, adults, and the elderly), testing for effect modifications by sex and insurance status, while controlling for weather and air pollutants.

METHODS: We used a case-crossover design using events matched with referent days on the same day-of-the-week, month, and year with conditional logistic regression to estimate the probability of hospital admission, while controlling for apparent temperature (lag 1), nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter of 2.5μm or less.

RESULTS: Children (aged 1-17) were 1.19 (95% confidence interval: 1.00-1.41) times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma three days after a low wind event, and 1.33 (95% CI: 1.01-1.75) times more likely to be hospitalized for acute bronchitis one day after a dust event than on a clear day. Girls were more sensitive to acute bronchitis hospitalizations after dust events (1.83, 95% CI: 1.09-3.08) than boys, but less sensitive than boys to acute bronchitis hospitalizations after low wind events (0.68, 95% CI: 0.46-1.00). We found general trends with regard to dust and low wind events being associated with increased odds of hospitalization for asthma and bronchitis amongst all ages and adults (aged 18-64). Adults covered by Medicaid and adults without health insurance had higher risks of hospitalization for asthma and acute bronchitis after both low wind and dust events.

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that there were respiratory health effects associated with dust and low wind events in El Paso, with stronger impacts among children and poor adults. Girls and boys with acute bronchitis were differentially sensitive to dust and low wind events.

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