A new study led by researchers at the Louisiana State University Superfund Research Program shows that children exposed to a certain type of air pollution in the environment are more likely to contract community-acquired pneumonia, or CAP, and remain in bed for extended periods of time. to be admitted to hospital. Social factors, including race and socioeconomic status, were also found to be associated with living in areas at high risk for CAP.
“This study adds to the evidence that poor respiratory health is associated with exposure to environmental air pollution, particularly particles from combustion,” said study co-author Stephania Cormier, who leads the LSU Superfund Research. Program leads.
Research conducted by scientists at the LSU Superfund Research Program has shown similar patterns for other respiratory diseases, including asthma, and recent data suggests implications for COVID-19.
Using data from a Centers for Disease Control surveillance study of pediatric pneumonia and geographic information systems, the researchers identified high- and low-risk areas for CAP in the Memphis, Tennessee metropolitan area. They collected information about the cause of the child’s pneumonia, such as bacterial or viral infection, public versus private health insurance, age, race, and exposure to particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, or PM2.5. These small particles in the air are released during industrial combustion, car exhaust and forest fires. PM2.5 is one of six air pollutants regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, and has been linked to higher rates of respiratory infections and a plethora of other health problems, including cardiovascular disease.
On independent analysis, race, type of insurance, and PM2.5 exposure were all identified as significant risk factors associated with living in areas with a higher-than-expected CAP. However, race was the most important factor associated with living in a risk area. In the Memphis metropolitan area, Hispanic and non-Hispanic black children were hospitalized for pneumonia at significantly higher rates compared to white children.
Another key finding from this study is that the health risk associated with high PM2.5 levels occurred at levels below the current legal maximum standard set by the EPA.
The fact that we saw an increased risk of pediatric pneumonia at PM2.5 levels below what is currently allowed by the EPA is a concern and points to the need for ongoing evaluation and policy adjustment based on evidence of health effects and exposure or risk information such as this.”
Stephania Cormier, study co-author
The World Health Organization recently lowered maximum standards for environmental particles worldwide to below the current EPA maximum level for the US
This policy change and new research are especially important in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2.
“COVID-19 also causes pneumonia, and our research suggests that PM2.5 may contribute to higher infection rates and increased illness in those who do get sick,” Cormier said.
What is unique about this research is that the researchers estimate PM2.5 concentrations using satellite data.
“Thanks to incredible advances in technology, we have access to high-resolution satellite data that accurately captures information about environmental pollution around the world. We were able to use this data to hone in on specific neighborhoods where higher-than-average hospital admissions for pediatric pneumonia are found to find out why,” he says. Tonny J. Oyana, lead author and professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and director of the College of Computing and Information Sciences at Makerere University, Uganda.
This study was published in the scientific journal Experimental Biology & Medicine and was selected as a highlight by the journal last month.
Louisiana State University
Oyana, TJ, et al. (2021) Exposure to particulate matter predicts stay in areas at risk for community-acquired pneumonia in hospitalized children. Experimental biology and medicine. doi.org/10.1177/15353702211014456.