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Air Quality Found to Affect the Prevalence of Ear Infections

Reductions in common air pollutants over past decade linked to fewer ear infections in children

THURSDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- During the past decade, improved air quality has corresponded with a decreased prevalence of frequent ear infections in children, according to a report in the February issue of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

Neil Bhattacharyya, M.D., of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, and a colleague analyzed yearly historical data from the Environmental Protection Agency on carbon monoxide, nitrous dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, along with data on 126,060 children from the 1997 to 2006 National Health Interview Surveys.

During the study period, the researchers found that air quality steadily improved, and that reductions in carbon monoxide, nitrous dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter were significantly associated with a decreased prevalence of frequent ear infections, with regression coefficients ranging from 0.007 for particulate matter to 11.2 for sulfur dioxide. They also found that improved air quality was associated with non-significant regression coefficients for respiratory allergies and non-respiratory condition seizures.

"Continued surveillance of air quality parameters as well as other environmental factors and their influence on human respiratory illness is warranted," the authors conclude.

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