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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2016 Dec 15;194(12):1475-1482.

Early-Life Exposure to the Great Smog of 1952 and the Development of Asthma.

Author information

1
1 Department of Economics, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California.
2
2 Department of Resource Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts; and.
3
3 Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, New York.

Abstract

RATIONALE:

Little is known about the long-term effects of air pollution exposure and the root causes of asthma. We use exposure to intense air pollution from the 1952 Great Smog of London as a natural experiment to examine both issues.

OBJECTIVES:

To determine whether exposure to extreme air pollution in utero or soon after birth affects asthma development later in life.

METHODS:

This was a natural experiment using the unanticipated pollution event by comparing the prevalence of asthma between those exposed to the Great Smog in utero or the first year of life with those conceived well before or after the incident and those residing outside the affected area at the time of the smog.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS:

Prevalence of asthma during childhood (ages 0-15) and adulthood (ages >15) is analyzed for 2,916 respondents to the Life History portion of the English Longitudinal Study on Aging born from 1945 to 1955. Exposure to the Great Smog in the first year of life increases the likelihood of childhood asthma by 19.87 percentage points (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.37-36.38). We also find suggestive evidence that early-life exposure led to a 9.53 percentage point increase (95% CI, -4.85 to 23.91) in the likelihood of adult asthma and exposure in utero led to a 7.91 percentage point increase (95% CI, -2.39 to 18.20) in the likelihood of childhood asthma.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results are the first to link early-life pollution exposure to later development of asthma using a natural experiment, suggesting the legacy of the Great Smog is ongoing.

KEYWORDS:

Great Smog; air pollution; asthma; early-life exposure

PMID:
27392261
PMCID:
PMC5440984
DOI:
10.1164/rccm.201603-0451OC
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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