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Associations between ambient ozone, hydrocarbons, and childhood wheezy episodes: a prospective observational study in south east London
  1. Roger Buchdahla,
  2. Charlotte Daman Willemsb,
  3. Margaret Vanderb,
  4. Abdel Babikerc
  1. aDepartment of Paediatrics, The Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, Sydney Street, London SW3 6NP, UK, bChildren's Hospital Lewisham, London SE13 6LH, UK, cDivision of HIV Infections, MRC Clinical Trials Unit (CTU), 222 Euston Road, London NW1 2DA, UK
  1. Dr Roger Buchdahl, Department of Paediatrics, Hillingdon Hospital, Pield Heath Rd, Middlesex UB8 3NN, UK email rbuc{at}


OBJECTIVES To explore the hypothesis that hydrocarbon species and other air pollutants which accumulate at low and high concentrations of ozone are more directly associated with childhood wheezy episodes than ozone.

METHODS Prospective observational study over 1 year set in the Lewisham district of south east London. The daily attendance rate of children with acute wheeze at the accident and emergency department of Lewisham Hospital was related to local measurements of ozone, hydrocarbon species, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and small particulate matter with diameter <10μm (PM10).

RESULTS An inverse relation was found between the air pollutants and ozone. After seasonal and meteorological adjustment a non-linear U shaped trend was found between incidence of wheeze and ozone. The trend was significant in children <2 years of age but not in older children. In the younger age group, after adjustment for season, temperature, wind speed, and respiratory infection, the incidence relative to that at the mean daily ozone concentration of 32.7 μg/m3, was estimated to increase by 65% (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 22% to 122%) at an ozone concentration of 5 μg/m3 (1.5 SDs below the mean) and by 63% (95%CI −6% to 184%) at 80 μg/m3(2.5 SDs above the mean). For several hydrocarbons there were significant positive linear relations found, again in children <2 years of age but not older children. For benzene, the incidence increased by 8% (95% CI 2 to 13%) per SD (SD 2.8 μg/m3) increase in benzene concentration. A same day association between incidence and ozone was found to be the most significant but for other pollutants a lag of 2 days gave the most significant associations. No significant association was found for the non-hydrocarbon pollutants including SO2, NO2, and PM10.

CONCLUSIONS A U shaped relation was found between ozone and the incidence of wheezy episodes in young children. Certain hydrocarbon pollutants accumulate in the atmosphere when ozone concentrations are low, and are associated with childhood wheezy episodes. However, the U shaped association of ozone on incidence cannot be explained by these other pollutants. The finding supports an earlier finding that incidences of wheeze are at a minimum when ozone concentrations are 30–40 μg/m3.

  • air pollution
  • ozone
  • hydrocarbons
  • childhood wheezing

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