JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW
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Health Impacts of Wildfire Smoke on Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Wildfire smoke is associated with human health, becoming an increasing public health concern. However, a comprehensive synthesis of the current evidence on the health impacts of ambient wildfire smoke on children and adolescents, an exceptionally vulnerable population, is lacking. We conduct a systematic review of peer-reviewed epidemiological studies on the association between wildfire smoke and health of children and adolescents.

RECENT FINDINGS: We searched for studies available in MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Scopus from database inception up to October 11, 2022. Of 4926 studies initially identified, 59 studies from 14 countries were ultimately eligible. Over 33.3% of the studies were conducted in the USA, and two focused on multi-countries. The exposure assessment of wildfire smoke was heterogenous, with wildfire-specific particulate matters with diameters ≤ 2.5 µm (PM2.5 , 22.0%) and all-source (22.0%) PM2.5 during wildfire period most frequently used. Over half of studies (50.6%) focused on respiratory-related morbidities/mortalities. Wildfire smoke exposure was consistently associated with enhanced risks of adverse health outcomes in children/adolescents. Meta-analysis results presented a pooled relative risk (RR) of 1.04 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.96-1.12) for all-cause respiratory morbidity, 1.11 (95% Ci: 0.93-1.32) for asthma, 0.93 (95% CI, 0.85-1.03) for bronchitis, and 1.13 (95% CI, 1.05-1.23) for upper respiratory infection, whilst - 21.71 g for birth weight (95% CI, - 32.92 to - 10.50) per 10 µg/m3 increment in wildfire-specific PM2.5 /all-source PM2.5 during wildfire event. The majority of studies found that wildfire smoke was associated with multiple adverse health outcomes among children and adolescents, with respiratory morbidities of significant concern. In-utero exposure to wildfire smoke may increase the risk of adverse birth outcomes and have long-term impacts on height. Higher maternal baseline exposure to wildfire smoke and poor family-level baseline birthweight respectively elevated risks in preterm birth and low birth weight associated with wildfire smoke. More studies in low- and middle-income countries and focusing on extremely young children are needed. Despite technological progress, wildfire smoke exposure measurements remain uncertain, demanding improved methodologies to have more precise assessment of wildfire smoke levels and thus quantify the corresponding health impacts and guide public mitigation actions.

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