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Family stress combined with pollution increases asthma risk: study

Children from stressful homes may be more susceptible to developing asthma linked to environmental factors such as traffic-related pollution and smoking during pregnancy, according to a new study co-authored by a St. Michael’s Hospital post-doctoral fellow.

Toronto, July 22, 2009

Effect of stress, pollution and smoking on kids susceptibility to asthma

Children from stressful homes may be more susceptible to developing asthma linked to environmental factors such as traffic-related pollution and smoking during pregnancy, according to a new study co-authored by a St. Michael’s Hospital post-doctoral fellow.

The study, published in the Online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on July 17, found that while high exposure to stress in the home alone did not increase the risk for asthma, children who had greater exposure to traffic-related pollution in combination with high parental stress were at greater risk of developing asthma than those from less stressful households. Stress, as well as low parental education, was also associated with increased susceptibility to the effects of smoking during pregnancy on asthma.

“Stress, as well as exposure to traffic-related pollution and tobacco smoke, can increase airway inflammation in the lungs, which is a telltale sign of asthma,” said Ketan Shankardass, PhD, from the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael’s Hospital. “This study calls for further research into the inter-relationship between air pollution and stress in order to determine why this disease develops.”

Shankardass also noted that, “Social disparities in asthma are often reported, and exposure to air pollution, as well as stress, is often higher in marginalized populations. These findings suggest that the dual exposure of stress and air pollution may contribute to these disparities.”

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