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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

SANCHEZ, Juan et al. Acute effects of breathable particulate matter and of sulfur dioxide on the respiratory health of children in the industrial area of Puchuncaví, Chile. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1999, vol.6, n.6, pp. 384-391. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49891999001100003.

This study investigated the acute effect of air pollution on the respiratory health of children living in the industrial area of Puchuncaví, in Region V of Chile. The 114 children studied were from 6 to 12 years old; 57 of them had chronic respiratory symptoms and 57 did not. Each day for 66 days the air was checked for levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and of breathable particles that were < 10 µm (PM10). The children were selected and classified according to their susceptibility to chronic respiratory disease by means of a questionnaire used with 882 children living within the area of the emissions from a copper foundry and a thermoelectric plant. Each day, each studied child's peak expiratory flow (PEF) and incidence of respiratory symptoms were checked and recorded. Using regression models (generalized estimation equations), estimates were made of the association of SO2 and PM10 levels with PEF and the incidence of cough, expectoration, episodes of wheezing, dyspnea, and use of bronchodilators. Among the children who were initially symptomatic, an increase of 50 µg/m3 in the daily mean level of SO2 caused a reduction of -1.42 L/min (95% confidence interval (95% CI): -2.84 to -0.71) in the PEF of the following day. An increase of 30 µg/m3 in the cumulative concentration of PM10 over three days produced a PEF reduction of -2.84 L/min (95% CI: -4.26 to 0.00). With respect to symptoms, an increase of 30 µg/m3 in the weekly mean level of PM10 was related with a 26% increase (odds ratio (OR) = 1.26; 95% CI: 1.01 to 1.57) in the incidence of cough and of 23% (OR = 1.23; 95% CI: 1.00 to 1.50) in the incidence of expectoration. An increase of 50 µg/m3 in the mean level of SO2 for three days was associated with a 5% increase (OR = 1.05; 95% CI: 1.00 to 1.10) in the incidence of expectoration. An increase of 30 µg/m3 in the daily average of PM10 increased the use of bronchodilators two days later by 10% (OR = 1.10; 95% CI: 1.03 to 1.18). Among the initially asymptomatic children, a significant effect from PM10 exposure was found after an increase of 30 µg/m3 in the mean daily PM10 level, with a reduction of -1.34 L/min (95% CI: -2.68 to -0.67) in the PEF of the following day. A similar increase in the cumulative exposure over three days was associated with an increase of 9% in the incidence of episodes of wheezing (OR = 1.09; 95% CI: 1.01 to 1.31). It is concluded that high levels of PM10 and SO2 affect the respiratory health of children living in the industrial area of Puchuncaví.

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