Young girl wearing face mask outdoors, smoke haze fills sky behind her
(Aulia Erlangga/Center for International Forestry Research)

Air Pollution, Including During Wildfires, Shows Ill Effects in Children

UC Davis researchers see markers for inflammation, cardiac regulation

New research linking air pollution data from federal monitors in the Sacramento area of California, including during significant fires, is showing ill effects of pollution exposure among children, a new UC Davis study suggests.

Blood samples show that children have elevated markers of inflammation, such as interleukin 6, if they were exposed to higher air pollution. Further, higher air pollution was linked to lower cardiac autonomic regulation in children, which impacts how fast the heart beats and how hard it pumps, according to the study.

In the study, published Aug. 3 in the journal New Directions for Child and Adolescent Research, researchers looked at blood samples from more than 100 healthy children ages 9-11 in the Sacramento area where pollutants near their homes were recorded by the Environmental Protection Agency.  The study was authored by Anna M. Parenteau, a doctoral student, and Camelia E. Hostinar, associate professor, both from the UC Davis Department of Psychology. The work took place at UC Davis.

These findings are important because exposure to pollutants released during wildfires has been related to numerous negative health outcomes in children, who have smaller bodies and organ systems than adults, including asthma and decreased lung function, as well as neurodevelopmental outcomes like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, and deficits in school performance and memory, researchers said.

By examining daily and monthly levels of particulate matter in relation to children’s inflammation and autonomic physiology, this study further demonstrates the immediate consequences of exposure to air pollution, which may increase risk of future disease. ... As climate change continues to impact children and families, it is paramount to understand the impact of environmental contaminants such as air pollution on children’s physiology.” — Anna Parenteau, UC Davis psychology doctoral student and study co-author

Read the rest of this article and related stories at UC Davis News.

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