Infant Exposure To Air Pollution Linked To Adult Lung Disease

Early exposure to <"">air pollutants has been linked to lung disease in later life. According to Science Daily, an emerging study has revealed that exposure to “environmentally persistent free radicals” in early life can affect “long-term lung function.”

Stephania Cormier, PhD, an Associate Professor of Pharmacology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, made the finding, the first of its kind, said Science Daily. Dr. Cormier presented the data at the 11th International Congress on Combustion By-Products and Their Health Effects at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Conference Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, said Science Daily.

Dr. Cormier—a 2006 National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Outstanding New Environmental Scientist awardee—is conducting the study in an effort to learn how “inhalation” exposure to “allergens, pollutants, and respiratory viruses” that occur in infancy can lead to so-called pulmonary inflammatory diseases later in life, for example chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.

Dr. Cormier’s study found that infant inhalation exposure to ultra fine pollutants led to the production of some proteins in genes, such as the protein linked with “COPD and steroid-resistant asthma,” said Science Daily. The exposure also resulted in proteins to “misfold,” which caused them to become “dysfunctional.” According to Science Daily, such dysfunctions, or defects, are connected to structural lung changes, “airflow limitations, and permanent changes in immune responses.”

“It is no surprise that elevations in airborne particulate matter (PM) are associated with increased hospital admissions for respiratory symptoms, including asthma exacerbations,” said Dr. Cormier. “What has come as a surprise is that early exposure to elevated levels of PM elicits long-term effects on lung function and lung development in children,” she added, quoted Science Daily.

Of note, said Science Daily, is that the EPA does not regulate ultra fine PM emissions.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that over 12 million Americans are diagnosed with COPD and another 12 million likely are unaware that they have the disease. Asthma is considered the most common chronic childhood disorder, said Science Daily, citing the NIH, estimating it affects over six million children under 18.

“Glucocorticoid (steroid) treatment is the foundation of asthma treatment; however, while the majority of patients with asthma respond to glucocorticoid treatment there are a number of patients who do not,” said Dr. Cormier. “In cells, a protein called cofilin-1 appears to inhibit glucocorticoid function. We are currently testing whether cofilin-1 also does this in the body. If it does, then it is possible to envision the development of therapeutics aimed at inhibiting cofilin-1 for use in steroid-resistant asthmatics,” she added, quoted Science Daily.

The Dallas Morning News also just wrote about two studies that point to how pollution impacts asthma and intelligence levels. According to the Dallas Morning News, one study found that pollution, combined with stress, increases a child’s risk for developing the disease by 45 percent. Another study found that prenatal pollution exposure is linked to lower IQ scores, said the Dallas Morning News, which noted that children born to women exposed to “typical urban pollution” when pregnant scored about five points lower on such tests.

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