Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Air pollution, fetal and infant tobacco smoke exposure, and wheezing in preschool children: a population-based prospective birth cohort

Agnes MM Sonnenschein-van der Voort123, Yvonne de Kluizenaar4, Vincent WV Jaddoe135, Carmelo Gabriele126, Hein Raat7, Henriëtte A Moll5, Albert Hofman3, Frank H Pierik4, Henk ME Miedema4, Johan C de Jongste2 and Liesbeth Duijts238*

Author Affiliations

1 The Generation R Study Group, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2 Department of Pediatrics, Division of Respiratory Medicine, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

3 Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

4 Department of Urban Environment and Safety, Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Delft, The Netherlands

5 Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

6 Department of Pediatric Pulmonology and Allergology, Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, Utrecht, The Netherlands

7 Department of Public Health, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

8 Department of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

For all author emails, please log on.

Environmental Health 2012, 11:91  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-11-91

Published: 11 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Air pollution is associated with asthma exacerbations. We examined the associations of exposure to ambient particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) with the risk of wheezing in preschool children, and assessed whether these associations were modified by tobacco smoke exposure.

Methods

This study was embedded in the Generation R Study, a population-based prospective cohort study among 4,634 children. PM10 and NO2 levels were estimated for the home addresses using dispersion modeling. Annual parental reports of wheezing until the age of 3 years and fetal and infant tobacco smoke exposure was obtained by questionnaires.

Results

Average annual PM10 or NO2 exposure levels per year were not associated with wheezing in the same year. Longitudinal analyses revealed non-significant tendencies towards positive associations of PM10 or NO2 exposure levels with wheezing during the first 3 years of life (overall odds ratios (95% confidence interval): 1.21 (0.79, 1.87) and 1.06 (0.92, 1.22)) per 10 μg/m3 increase PM10 and NO2, respectively). Stratified analyses showed that the associations were stronger and only significant among children who were exposed to both fetal and infant tobacco smoke (overall odds ratios 4.54 (1.17, 17.65) and 1.85 (1.15, 2.96)) per 10 μg/m3 increase PM10 and NO2, respectively (p-value for interactions <0.05).

Conclusions

Our results suggest that long term exposure to traffic-related air pollutants is associated with increased risks of wheezing in children exposed to tobacco smoke in fetal life and infancy. Smoke exposure in early life might lead to increased vulnerability of the lungs to air pollution.

Keywords:
Cohort study; Asthma; Pediatrics; Environmental tobacco smoke exposure; Air pollution