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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

USC Finds Children’s Lungs Grew Stronger as Pollution Declined throughout the Southern California Basin Over the Past Two Decades

A 20-year study finds that millennial children in Southern California breathe easier than ones who came of age in the ‘90s, for a reason as clear as the air in Los Angeles today.

The University of Southern California Children’s Health Study measured lung development between the ages of 11 and 15 and found large gains for children studied from 2007 to 2011, compared to children of the same age in the same communities from 1994-98 and 1997-2001.

The gains in lung function paralleled improving air quality in the communities studied, and across the Los Angeles basin, as policies to fight pollution took hold.

The research appears in the March 5, 2015 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Many studies have measured the health effects of pollution by comparing locations with different air quality. The challenge lies in ruling out other factors that may account for health differences between communities.

By following more than 2,000 children in the same locations over two decades and adjusting for age, gender, ethnicity, height, respiratory illness, and other variations, the study provides stronger evidence that improved air quality by itself brings health benefits – benefits which last a lifetime for children breathing cleaner air during their critical growing years.

“We saw pretty substantial improvements in lung function development in our most recent cohort of children,” said lead author Dr. W. James Gauderman, professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, noting this was the first good news from the long-running study.

“It’s strange to be reporting positive numbers instead of negative numbers after 20 years.”

Widely-covered previous findings from the study showed an increase in stunted lung development for children in areas with heavy air pollution, as well as a higher risk of asthma for children living near busy roadways.

USC article: http://usceh.blogspot.com/2015/03/CleanAirLA.html

NEJM article: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1414123