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Prenatal and early life exposure to air pollution and the risk of severe lower respiratory tract infections during early childhood: the Espoo Cohort Study.

BACKGROUND: There is inconsistent evidence of the effects of exposure to ambient air pollution on the occurrence of lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) in early childhood. We assessed the effects of individual-level prenatal and early life exposure to air pollutants on the risk of LRTIs in early life.

METHODS: We studied 2568 members of the population-based Espoo Cohort Study born between 1984 and 1990 and living in 1991 in the City of Espoo, Finland. Exposure assessment was based on dispersion modelling and land-use regression for lifetime residential addresses. The outcome was a LRTI based on data from hospital registers. We applied Poisson regression to estimate the incidence rate ratio (IRR) of LTRIs, contrasting incidence rates in the exposure quartiles to the incidence rates in the first quartile. We used weighted quantile sum (WQS) regression to estimate the joint effect of the studied air pollutants.

RESULTS: The risk of LRTIs during the first 2 years of life was significantly related to exposure to individual and multiple air pollutants, measured with the Multipollutant Index (MPI), including primarily sulphur dioxide (SO2 ), particulate matter with a dry diameter of up to 2.5 µm (PM2.5 ) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2 ) exposures in the first year of life, with an adjusted IRR of 1.72 per unit increase in MPI (95% CI 1.20 to 2.47). LRTIs were not related to prenatal exposure.

CONCLUSIONS: We provide evidence that ambient air pollution exposure during the first year of life increases the risk of LRTIs during the first 2 years of life. SO2 , PM2.5 and NO2 were found to contribute the highest weights on health effects.

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