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Environ Epidemiol. 2018 Mar;2(1). pii: e007. doi: 10.1097/EE9.0000000000000007.

Associations of mobile source air pollution during the first year of life with childhood pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and otitis media.

Author information

Department of Environmental Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nevada Reno, Reno, Nevada.
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia.
Kaiser Permanente Georgia Center for Clinical and Outcomes Research, Atlanta, Georgia.
Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies, University of Adelaide, 122 Frome Street, Adelaide, Australia, 5000.



Exposure to pollution from motor vehicles in early life may increase susceptibility to common pediatric infections.


We estimated associations between residential exposure to primary fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and carbon monoxide (CO) from traffic during the first year of life and incident pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and otitis media events by age two years in 22,441 children from the Kaiser Air Pollution and Pediatric Asthma Study, a retrospective birth cohort of children born during 2000-2010 and insured by Kaiser Permanente Georgia. Time to first clinical diagnosis of each outcome was defined using medical records. Exposure to traffic pollutants was based on observation-calibrated estimates from A Research LINE-source dispersion model for near surface releases (RLINE) and child residential histories. Associations were modeled using Cox proportional hazards models, with exposure as a continuous linear variable, a natural-log transformed continuous variable, and categorized by quintiles.


During follow-up 2,181 children were diagnosed with pneumonia, 5,533 with bronchiolitis, and 14,373 with otitis media. We observed positive associations between early-life traffic exposures and all three outcomes; confidence intervals were widest for pneumonia as it was the least common outcome. For example, adjusted hazard ratios for a 1-unit increase in NOx on the natural log scale (a 2.7-fold increase) were 1.19 (95% CI 1.12, 1.27) for bronchiolitis, 1.17 (1.12, 1.22) for otitis media, and 1.08 (0.97, 1.20) for pneumonia.


Our results provide evidence for modest, positive associations between exposure to traffic emissions and common pediatric infections during early childhood.


air pollution; bronchiolitis; otitis media; pneumonia; traffic

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