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Parental Stress Seen to Play Role in Pollution-Asthma Link

Children with high parental stress at higher risk of asthma associated with traffic pollution, smoking

MONDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Children whose parents are under more stress may be more likely to develop asthma associated with traffic-related pollution or smoking in utero, according to research published online July 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ketan Shankardass, Ph.D., of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues analyzed data from 2,497 children, ages 5 to 9 years, who had no history of asthma or wheezing upon entering the study. Their residential exposure to traffic-related pollution was estimated using a line source dispersion model, and parental stress was measured with the Perceived Stress Scale. Children were followed for three years for new-onset asthma.

The researchers found that the risk of asthma associated with traffic-related pollution was higher in children with high parental stress (hazard ratio, 1.51). Risk was not significantly higher for children with low parental stress. Children with high parental stress also had higher risk of asthma linked to in utero tobacco smoke exposure (hazard ratio, 2.66), the authors note.

"This study provides evidence that parental stress increases susceptibility to new-onset childhood asthma associated with traffic-related air pollution and demonstrates the complex relationship between socioeconomic status, air pollution, and asthma. The similarity in the pattern of susceptibility to maternal smoking in utero suggests that biological pathways common to the response to combustion products may explain this susceptibility," Shankardass and colleagues conclude.

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