Hospitalizations for Respiratory Problems and Exposure to Industrial Emissions in Children

  •  Remi Labelle    
  •  Allan Brand    
  •  Stephane Buteau    
  •  Audrey Smargiassi    


Industrial activities such as metal smelting, petroleum refining, and open mining emit air pollutants that can affect the health of surrounding communities. Few studies have assessed respiratory effects of acute exposure to industrial air emissions in children. In this study, we examined the association between daily exposure to air emissions from an industrial complex and hospitalizations for respiratory problems of children living nearby using a case crossover design. We used hospitalizations for respiratory problems of children under 5 years old living within 7.5 km of the industrial complex from January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2010. Pollutant exposure was estimated using daily mean and maximum concentrations of SO2 and PM2.5 at fixed monitoring stations located near the complex. We also calculated the daily percentage of hours that a child’s residence was downwind of the industrial complex as an indicator of exposure to emissions. Odds-ratios were adjusted for temperature, relative humidity and wind speed, and calculated using conditional logistic regressions, reported by increases of interquartile range. A significant positive association was found between hospitalization for asthma or bronchiolitis and the percentage of hours downwind (OR: 1.11, 95% CI=1.01–1.22) but large statistical variability was noted for associations with all three exposure metrics (OR maximum SO2 levels: 1.06, 95% CI=0.98–1.15; OR daily maximum PM2.5 levels: 0.97, 95% CI=0.86–1.09). The results suggest that exposure to the mixture of air pollutant emissions from an industrial complex may induce respiratory health problems in children residing nearby.

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