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Carbon Particles Affect Children's Lung Function

Carbon content of airway macrophages correlates with reductions in forced expiratory volume

WEDNESDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Inhaling carbon particles, a common component of air pollution, may cause impaired lung function in children, according to a study published in the July 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Neeta Kulkarni, M.D., of the University of Leicester in Leicester, U.K., and colleagues measured concentrations of particulate matter 10 (PM10) microns or smaller in the neighborhoods of 114 healthy children, assessed the carbon content of the children's airway macrophages and used spirometry to evaluate their lung function.

The researchers were able to assess the carbon content of airway macrophages in 64 (56 percent) of the children. They found that each increase in primary PM10 of 1.0 μg per cubic meter was associated with an increase of 0.10 μm2 in the carbon content of airway macrophages, and that each increase of 1.0 μm2 in carbon content was associated with a 17 percent reduction in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1).

"Findings from [such] studies will provide necessary support for actions by policymakers and will guide the choice of specific control strategies," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "The best control strategy from the standpoint of human health, supported by the scientific evidence to date, is to reduce the levels of all types of air pollutants. Our children's health depends on it."

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