Are Children Growing Up Near Highways More Likely to Be Asthmatic?

NOVEMBER 21, 2016
Ryan Black
Researchers from Pittsburgh and Puerto Rico collaborated recently on a study of Puerto Rican children that sought to determine how traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) may or may not impact the development of childhood asthma based on residential proximity to major roadways.
 
Recruitment occurred between March of 2009 and June of 2010. The study examined blood samples and parental questionnaires for a final total of 577 children, all aged 6 to 14 years old and having four grandparents of Puerto Rican descent. The blood samples were used to measure levels of over a dozen different cytokines associated with asthmatic inflammation, including a number of interleukin (IL) cytokines, as well as tumor necrotic factor (TNF) and interferon (IFN).
 
They found correlation for certain cytokines that they examined. Proximity to major roadways was “significantly associated” prevalence of IL-31 in the blood, a cytokine associated with the TH2 immune response that is known to contribute to asthma. According to the study, it has been “associated with multiple atopic and hypersensitivity conditions, including asthma, eczema, allergic rhinitis, mastocytosis, and pruritus in a variety of disorders.” The authors say that “little is known about environmental factors that influence IL-31 production; to our knowledge this is the first study to show that TRAP is associated with increased IL-31 in plasma.”
 
The study also noticed a “suggestive, but nonstatistically significant evidence of an association between proximity to a major road and higher levels of both IL17F (implicated in TH17 immune responses) and IL-10 (involved in pathways related to…TH2, and TH17 immune responses).”
 
Though the data does not demonstrate an outright link between residential roadway proximity and asthma prevalence, it concludes that such a factor “is associated with increased levels of several proinflammatory cytokines in Puerto Rican children,” continuing that the findings demand future investigation into the topic.
 
The study was conducted by researchers from the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC (PA), the University of Puerto Rico (San Juan, PR), and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It was published recently in Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology.
 
Related Coverage:
Atopy and Allergen Exposure Impact Asthma Severity in Children
Teens Are Twice as Likely to Smoke If They Have Asthma
Does the Stress of Living in High-Crime Neighborhoods Bring on Asthma?

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