According to a new study from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, children who are exposed to high stress environments experience higher levels of traffic-related pollution (TRP) resulting in increased risk for lung damage. “This is the first study demonstrating that growing up in a stressful household was associated with larger traffic pollution-induced lung deficits in healthy children compared to low stress households,” said lead researcher Talat Islam, MBBS, assistant professor in the Division of Environmental Health at Keck School of Medicine. The researchers assessed the respiratory function of 1,400 children between the ages of 10 and 12, examining their exposure to toxins including nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide, at both home and school. They used the Perceived Stress Scale to determine the level of stress in the parents.
The results showed that Asian and Hispanic parents reported the highest level of perceived stress, as well as households with annual incomes under $30,000. Other factors that were linked to higher stress levels were lower education among parents, lack of health insurance and homes with no air conditioning. Children in environments with high stress levels had a 4.5 percent decreased amount of lung volume. “Based on the emerging data we expected to see a modifying effect of stress,” said Dr. Islam. “However, we were surprised by the magnitude of effect.” The findings were linked to TRP exposure in both school and home environments. “Children in this age group spend almost one-third of their day-time hours at school so exposure at school is an important contributor to total exposure,” said Dr. Islam. He added, “One possible explanation for the stress-related pattern of TRP respiratory effects is the biological pathways common to effects of TRP and stress. Like air pollution, stress has been linked to both inflammation and oxidative damage at the cellular level, so this may explain the association.”
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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