Air Pollution Does Long-Term Damage to Kids’ Lungs

Regular exposure to air pollution can stunt the growth of children’s lungs, leading to a lifetime of reduced respiratory capacity, health problems, and even early death, according to a landmark study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study, the longest and most comprehensive of its kind, followed a group of 1,759 schoolchildren in Southern California from fourth grade to high school graduation. Children breathing dirty air were up to five times more likely to grow up with weakened lungs, a finding true across the board, not just in children with preexisting conditions like asthma. Professor C. Arden Pope, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, tried to put a positive spin on the results, calling them “good news” because they confirm that “the control of air pollution represents an important opportunity to prevent disease.” Hey, great!