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Exposure to fume emitting heaters in the first year of life found to be associated with asthma in later childhood

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Primary school children exposed to fume emitting heaters during their first year of life have been found to have more airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) and wheeze than those not so exposed, according to a case-control study from New South Wales, Australia.

A total of 627 children aged between 8 and 11 years (51% of the target population) were tested for AHR by a histamine challenge test, and also for atopy by skin prick tests to common allergens. Parents completed questionnaires which included questions about exposure at home to pets and tobacco smoke and the type of heating and cooking appliances used–both during the first year of life and currently.

The predominant types of fume emitting appliances were non-flued gas type heaters and wood stoves. There was a strong association between the use of these appliances during the child’s first year of life and the presence between the ages of 8 and 11 of AHR (adjusted relative risk 1.47, 1.06 to 2.03), recent wheeze (1.44, 1.11 to 1.86), and current asthma (2.08, 1.31 to 3.31). There was no association with atopy or with current use of fume emitting heaters.

This study reflects the importance of different exposures in early life in the aetiology of asthma. Although limited by a low response rate, if the findings were to be confirmed in other settings, there would be implications for the type of heating suitable for houses in which young children live.

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