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Transcript: A Breath of Air

A BREATH OF AIR
THE CHILDREN’S HEALTH STUDY

JIM GAUDERMAN We’ve recently published a paper, that is one of the first that shows a potential causative link between air pollution and new asthma, meaning that perhaps air pollution may cause asthma. And this is different from what we have established before and what other people have seen that air pollution causes increased symptoms in the children that already have asthma. We’re talking about air pollution actually bringing on the definition of asthma in a child…

DR. DAVID BATES Well, we’ve known for a long time that air pollutants aggravate asthma and I don’t think that anybody would dispute that anymore.

There must be 40 to 50 scientific papers showing that pollutants adversely affect asthmatics. But causing it is something else, because now you want to know why this child has developed asthma.

NARRATOR IN THE STUDY…THE ONSET OF NEW ASTHMA CASES IS PRIMARILY LINKED WITH THE POLLUTANT OZONE… A GAS THAT FORMS AS A RESULT OF VEHICLE EMISSIONS INTERACTING WITH SUNLIGHT. THIS IS THE LAKE ARROWHEAD AREA. IT’S A POPULAR VACATION SPOT BECAUSE IT SEEMS FAR AWAY FROM URBAN POLLUTION…. BUT IT ACTUALLY HAS THE HIGHEST OZONE LEVELS IN THE COUNTRY. IT ALSO HAS A LOT OF ATHLETIC KIDS.

JIM GAUDERMAN What we studied was the children’s activity patterns and we categorized children into how many sports they played. And we know children during these ages of school years often will be on a soccer team, and a basketball team and T-ball or baseball or something like this, so we, we, looked at children who played no sports or played a couple sports and those who played three or more sports. And the three or more sports kids, you can imagine, are the ones that are gonna be outdoors the most time and breathing outdoor levels of air pollution at the highest rates and ventilating the highest and so perhaps would be the most exposed children. And it turned out that the kids who play three or more sports and lived in our highest ozone communities had about a 3-fold increased risk of developing new asthma. By epidemiological standards, that’s a very high risk.

ROBIN COUTU I would say half of her high school team had asthma. The coach—he said his pockets were so full because he would hold all their inhalers. And he didn’t know whose was whose, and they’d all have to write their names on them.

It’s very hard to watch her struggling,— knowing how much she wants to be in there playing and that she can’t breathe.

What are the Health Effects: Breathing Cleaner Air Leads to Improvement

NARRATOR TONI TAYLOR SPENT TWO YEARS IN ILLINOIS WITH HER THREE OLDER KIDS.. AND…TO HER DISBELIEF…THEY WERE VIRTUALLY ASTHMA-FREE.

TONY It was almost non-existent, it was literally almost non-existent.

TEFFANI In winter our asthma was so good we could sleep with the windows open and all the snow and stuff and we wouldn’t have asthma attacks, the air was much cleaner and it’s not as thick as out here

TAMEIKA It’s less less pollution…

TONY When we got back here, they went back on the steroids plus the inhalers. Once they got the cold, it all just started right back up, it was just like, they fell right back into the same cycle of, they get a little cough, a little sniffle a sneeze and there goes their breathing right out the door.

JIM GAUDERMAN So we’ve been interested in whether the air pollution effects that we see especially in lung function are reversible, meaning that if you leave a high air pollution community will your lungs revert back to what they would’ve been had you not been breathing higher pollution and can you reverse any deficits that may have occurred.

NARRATOR THE SCIENTISTS FOLLOWED CHILDREN IN THE STUDY WHO MOVED FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA… TO OTHER LESS POLLUTED COMMUNITIES. WHAT THEY FOUND IS THAT LUNG FUNCTION GROWTH IMPROVED IN THESE CHILDREN. THAT ALSO MEANS THAT IF THE AIR GOT BETTER IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA…CHILDREN’S HEALTH WOULD GET BETTER TOO.

WHAT DO THE RESULTS MEAN?

BARRY WALLERSTEIN The Study shows that today’s air pollution levels are adversely affecting our children’s health. There are relationships to asthma, and lung disease and absence from school. It clearly shows we have to do more to clean our environment.

NARRATOR THE FEDERAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY IS CHARGED WITH REGULATING THE LEVELS OF POLLUTANTS IN THE AIR. CALIFORNIA IS THE ONLY STATE ALLOWED TO SET ITS OWN AIR POLLUTION STANDARDS… AND THOSE SET BY THE CALIFORNIA AIR RESOURCES BOARD ARE THE STRICTEST IN THE NATION. IN SPITE OF THIS, THE CHILDREN’S HEALTH STUDY HAS FOUND NOTABLE HEALTH EFFECTS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S YOUNG PEOPLE.

JIM GAUDERMAN We see what’s called a linear dose response relationship, meaning the higher the pollution the higher the risk of the symptoms So what it says I think to a regulator is that the lower they make pollution levels, the better off we’ll all be.

NARRATOR THE LOS ANGELES AREA HAS UNDERGONE BIG IMPROVEMENTS IN ITS AIR QUALITY IN THE LAST FEW DECADES. THIS IS L-A IN THE 1970s… WHEN THERE WERE TYPICALLY HUNDREDS OF SMOG ALERTS EACH YEAR.

THIS IS L-A TODAY. NOW WE RARELY HAVE ANY SMOG ALERTS WE’VE MADE PROGRESS.

BUT THERE ARE STILL MORE THAN 100 UNHEALTHY AIR DAYS A YEAR WHEN THE STATE OZONE STANDARD IS EXCEEDED. CERTAIN POLLUTANTS REMAIN HIGH… AND IT COULD GET WORSE.

DEVELOPMENT IN LOS ANGELES IS ON THE RISE.

THE POPULATION KEEPS GROWING.

THE PORTS OF L-A AND LONG BEACH ARE EXPANDING.

THERE IS TALK OF ADDING LANES TO BUSY FREEWAYS …TO ACCOMMODATE THE GROWING NUMBER OF TRUCKS.

AND THERE’S A PUSH TOWARD BUILDING AN INLAND PORT 50 MILES EAST OF LOS ANGELES – THE AREA WITH THE NATION’S HIGHEST PARTICULATE POLLUTION.

JIM GAUDERMAN If we stick to the current regulations, we will see levels go up in future years.

So, if we can reduce what’s emitted, reduce the toxicity of what’s emitted out of the tailpipe, reduce the diesel exhaust particles that are being emitted by trucks, that will serve to lower almost all the levels of all these pollutants.

NARRATOR THE CALIFORNIA AIR RESOURCES BOARD HAS A NEW PLAN TO DRAMATICALLY REDUCE DIESEL EMISSIONS BY THE YEAR 20-10. THE BOARD HAS ALSO JUST ISSUED A NEW STRICTER STANDARD FOR PARTICULATE MATTER. TINY PARTICLES THAT CAN GET DEEP INTO YOUR LUNGS. NEW MONITORING BY THE BOARD FOUND VERY HIGH LEVELS OF DANGEROUS PARTICLES AT AN EAST LOS ANGELES SCHOOL THAT IS RIGHT NEXT TO SEVERAL FREEWAYS.

IN FACT, CONCERN ABOUT THE HEALTH IMPLICATIONS OF HEAVY TRUCK AND CAR TRAFFIC IS LEADING THE CHILDREN’S HEALTH STUDY RESEARCHERS TO INVESTIGATE WHETHER GOING TO SCHOOL NEAR A BUSY ROAD… OR LIVING NEAR A FREEWAY… CAN LEAD TO RESPIRATORY PROBLEMS.

THE CHILDREN’S HEALTH STUDY WILL CONTINUE FOLLOWING THESE CHILDREN TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS TO THEIR HEALTH AND LUNG FUNCTION AFTER THEY GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL
AND REACH THEIR TWENTIES. THE RESEARCHERS WANT TO DETERMINE IF THE DEFICITS THESE KIDS EXPERIENCED IN THEIR CHILDHOOD WILL PERSIST.

AND THE RESEARCHERS DON’T WANT TO STOP THERE. THEY HOPE TO FOLLOW THIS GROUP FOR DECADES.

ALAN LLOYD How will the ARB in fact use these results? It’s great to fund a study, but how will they be used? I think they will be used right away to assess the research base, to look at the health impacts of children. To see in fact whether our regulations are protective of health, and if not, then how do we strengthen those?

JOHN PETERS We could be pushing hard for more public transportation, more incentives to produce less polluting vehicles, more awareness on the public hat some of the vehicles that they are purchasing are polluting vehicles.

PENNY NEWMAN We need to start putting together a plan that’s going to reduce the levels we already have and to prevent development in those types of facilities that will exacerbate the problem even more.

NARRATOR THE STUDY’S RESULTS HAVE ALREADY LED TO A TEMPORARY BAN ON THE BUILDING OF NEW WAREHOUSES LIKE THESE IN THE MIRA LOMA AREA.

BARRY WALLERSTEIN The Children’s Health Study has taken disbelievers that didn’t feel that air pollution really affected our children, and turned them into believers about the need to move forward with air pollution controls. It is truly a landmark study and provides a sound foundation for our planning and regulatory programs.

ALAN LLOYD These type of results can be directly linked to some of the regulatory action here and nationally and internationally to make sure that we’re trying to protect public health.

Newman I think my fear of what will happen if we don’t change what we’re doing, as someone who has raised two boys with asthma, who knows what it is like to go through a nighttime with my husband and I trading times of sleep because we were listening for our children’s breathing, knowing that at some point
we’d have to take them to the doctor…that has taught me real, well what pollution does to people. And I think if we don’t change that, there’s going to be more and more parents who go through that experience, who know what it is like to have to rush their child to the doctor in a life and death situation. And I don’t think there is a person alive who wants to live their life that way.

Irma Meza You can’t even begin to imagine not being able to breathe air. But what if you breathe air that’s damaging? I mean that’s just a scary, scary thought. That would be my fear. Not being able to at least take good deep breaths of air. Clean air.

WRITTEN ON SCREEN AND NOT READ ALOUD SERIES OF FACTS ABOUT AIR POLLUTION

More than 142 million Americans live in an area where the air they breathe puts them at risk.

California’s San Bernardino, Kern, Fresno, Riverside, and Tulare counties are the most-ozone polluted in the country.

Every year, thousands of people in the U.S. die prematurely from heart and lung disease from causes traced to particulate air pollution.

17 million Americans have asthma.

Nearly 5 million are children.

 

Centers Funded By:
Centers Funded by Epa and NIEHS

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