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High prevalence of childhood asthma in Northern Israel is linked to air pollution by particulate matter: evidence from GIS analysis and Bayesian Model Averaging

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The medical records of 3922 school children residing in the Greater Haifa Metropolitan Area in Northern Israel were analyzed. Individual exposure to ambient air pollution (SO2 and PM10) for each child was estimated using Geographic Information Systems tools. Factors affecting childhood asthma risk were then investigated using logistic regression and the more recently developed Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) tools. The analysis reveals that childhood asthma in the study area appears to be significantly associated with particulate matter of less than 10 μm in aerodynamic diameter (PM10) (Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.11; P < 0.001). However, no significant association with asthma prevalence was found for SO2 (P > 0.2), when PM10 and SO2 were introduced into the models simultaneously. When considering a change in PM10 between the least and the most polluted parts of the study area (9.4 μg/m3), the corresponding OR, calculated using the BMA analysis, is 2.58 (with 95% posterior probability limits of OR ranging from 1.52 to 4.41), controlled for gender, age, proximity to main roads, the town of a child's residence, and family's socio-economic status. Thus, it is concluded that exposure to airborne particular matter, even at relatively low concentrations (40–50 μg/m3), generally below international air pollution standards (55–70 μg/m3), appears to be a considerable risk factor for childhood asthma in urban areas. This should be a cause of concern for public health authorities and environmental decision-makers.
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Keywords: air pollution; childhood asthma; residential communities

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Management,University of Haifa, Israel 2: Department of Statistics,University of Haifa, Israel 3: Department of Family Medicine, Haifa and Western Galilee District, Clalit Health Services, Haifa, Israel 4: Haifa District Health Office, Ministry of Health, Israel

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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