Prospective study in schoolchildren of Milan of health effects (respiratory damage and airway inflammation) from traffic related air pollution

F. Cetta, M. Sala, S. Argirò, P. Ballista, G. Perrone, R. Zangari, M. Giovannini

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Two-hundreds and twenty-eight children (127 males and 101 females), mean age 8 years, were enrolled from 2 primary schools, which were located in different sites, for studying pollution related respiratory symptoms and/or diseases in different places of Milan with a different traffic related exposure. The former (School 1) was located near a large park, the latter was located downtown, close to main crossroads (School 2). Daily levels of PM10 and PM 2,5 (diameter <10 μm and 2,5 μm, respectively) were measured using a mobile detection unit, which was placed either outside the schools (in the school garden) and within common places (corridors), for 7 consecutive days during 2 different campaigns (winter and spring-summer). Children underwent skin prick testing for inhaled allergens, analysis of exhaled nitric oxide and spirometry. The mean values of respiratory function measured by spirometry was within the normal limits in both schools. The mean value of Tiffeneau index (SD) was significantly lower in downtown school: 93.2 (5.5) vs 96.5 (4.1) (p=0.02). Mean (SD) concentration of FeNO (ppb) was higher in downtown school: 13.6 (14.6) vs 12.5 (14.9), and the distribution of FeNo concentration significatively differs between the two schools (p=0.02). 193 subjects (73 in downtown school and 120 in park school) agreed to undergo to skin prick tests. Prevalence of sensitization to inhaled allergens did not differ significatively between the two schools (downtown school, 32.8% vs park school, 27.5%; p=n.s.). Based on ISAAC questionnaire the percentage of asthma exacerbations in the previous 12 months was higher in children from school downtown (p=0.05); the prevalence of persistent allergic rhinitis in children allergic to grass pollen was higher in park school (p=0.03) with more activity limitation due to rhinitis and associated conjunctivitis (p=0.03). Present findings show that different degrees of respiratory function and bronchial inflammation were found in the 2 groups of children. Even if great caution is required when relating data from air quality monitoring to clinical outcomes in humans, it can be inferred that: 1) the different air quality in the 2 schools could have a role in determining observed differences; 2) traffic could be, at least in part, responsible for the different air quality; 3) reduction of traffic related pollution should be a logical and suitable objective of policy makers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-455
Number of pages9
JournalGIMT - Giornale Italiano delle Malattie del Torace
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Air pollution
  • Air way inflammation
  • Prospective study
  • Respiratory damage
  • Schoolchildren of Milan
  • Traffic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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