Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Life Course Approach for Examining Predictors of Respiratory Health in Adulthood
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PURPOSE: This research applies a life course health development framework to examine the impacts of childhood exposure to air pollution on respiratory health in adulthood. METHODS: This prospective cohort study uses data collected from children originally studied in the 1970/1980s, including exposure to air pollution, indoor exposures, sociodemographic variables, and health outcomes data. Thirty years later, a self-administered questionnaire was used to collect data from adulthood on health status, occupational and residential histories, socioeconomic status, and lifestyle. RESULTS: Overall, 29% of respondents were diagnosed with at least one respiratory condition and 24% have persistent respiratory symptoms in adulthood. Significant neighborhood differences in exposure variables and adulthood health outcomes were found. Predictors of adulthood respiratory health include asthma diagnosis or chest illness in childhood, parental record of respiratory symptoms, other medical diagnosis in adulthood, fair/poor self-perceived health, smoking/exposure to smoking, and residing in a property built before 1950. Results suggest that exposure to ambient total suspended particulates in childhood is preventative for diagnosis with at least one respiratory condition in adulthood. CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that long-term childhood exposure to air pollution does not predict respiratory conditions and symptoms in adulthood. However, respiratory health in childhood predicts adulthood respiratory health, thus suggesting that the health impacts of any exposures that impact respiratory health during critical or sensitive times in childhood are long term.
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