BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Saturday, 25 August 2007, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Pollution 'may boost asthma risk'
Exhaust fumes
There is dispute about the relation between pollution and asthma
Traffic pollution may boost the risk of children getting asthma - if they have genes which make them vulnerable, a study says.

The University of Southern California team studied the health records and genetic profiles of 3,000 children.

Those with a gene variation were slightly more at risk but if they lived near a main road, the risk rose more, the Thorax journal reported.

But UK asthma experts said the link remained unclear.

Scientists exploring how respiratory diseases, including asthma, develop have highlighted the importance of genes which control key body chemicals linked to "clean-up" functions in the body.

Enzymes called EPHX1 and a gene called GSTP1 appear to have some responsibility for getting rid of harmful chemicals which we breathe in.

Roadside risk

The researchers found that those who had high levels of EPHX1 were 1.5 times as likely to have been diagnosed with asthma, while those who also had variations in GSTP1 as well were four times as likely to have asthma.

However, living close to a main road appeared to make this effect even greater.

This study is very promising as it is one of the first to look specifically at how genetic susceptibility to respiratory disease and environmental traffic fumes can cause childhood asthma
Leanne Male, Asthma UK

Children with very active EPHX1 who lived within 75 metres of a road had a doubled risk of asthma compared with those who had low EPHX1 levels.

Having active EPHX1, variations in the gene, and a home near a road meant a risk nine times greater.

Their conclusion was that while children with the wrong genes and enzyme activity were more prone to having asthma, living near a road seemed to compound that risk.

There has been a long-running dispute about a link between asthma and exhaust fumes.

And Leanne Male, Asthma UK's assistant director of research, said more work was needed.

"This study is very promising as it is one of the first to look specifically at how genetic susceptibility to respiratory disease and environmental traffic fumes can cause childhood asthma.

"People with asthma tell us that traffic fumes make their asthma worse and although this research only looks at individuals with a certain genetic make-up, we await further robust research in this new and exciting area to help us find better ways to treat asthma."


SEE ALSO
Overweight 'higher asthma risk'
03 Apr 07 |  Health
Thermal sessions may help asthma
28 Nov 06 |  Leicestershire
Damp homes 'could cause asthma'
04 Mar 07 |  Health

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific