A new study from the Loma Linda University School of Public Health (LLUSPH) shows that children attending school near the San Bernardino Railyard have significantly increased prevalence of respiratory health challenges compared to children at a control school seven miles away. As part of the Environmental Railyard Research Impacting Community Health (ENRRICH) Project, LLU-SPH investigators and members of a community-based health organization evaluated the respiratory health of more than 1,000 children from the two inland cities of San Bernardino and Fontana, CA. The inland region of southern California has consistently poor air quality, and with the heavy rail and vehicular traffic carrying commercial goods through the area, increasing amounts of air pollution.
As part of the study, funded by a grant by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), measurements of airway inflammation and lung volume were taken from children from two socio-demographically matched schools: One located next to the San Bernardino Railyard and the other seven miles away in Fontana. The control school, while removed from the railyard’s emissions, was still exposed to air pollution from traffic corridors. Results from the two tests showed that children attending the school near the railyard had decreased lung function; the results were even more pronounced in children who had lived at their address for at least six months. This was in line with data collected from their parents, a majority of whom reported statistically higher rates of chronic coughs and wheezing in their children.
“The results are concerning,” said study co-investigator Dr. Rhonda Spencer-Hwang, assistant professor at LLUSPH. “Our respiratory testing supports what the parents have been telling us all along. Taken as a whole, it paints a picture of sicker kids.”
Children are a sensitive population for respiratory health risks due to many biological factors, including their developing lungs, increased breathing rates, smaller body size, and more time spent outdoors than adults. Previous research found that asthma is one of the most cited reasons for children missing school, especially in lower income households.
The full article, entitled “Respiratory Health Risks for Children Living Near a Major Railyard” can be found online in of the Journal of Community Health, available at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10900-015-0026-0