Better Air Quality Means Fewer Ear Infections in Children


Photo: Fickr, CC
Pediatric Ear Infections Cost Between $3-5 Billion Annually in U.S.
Ear infections are are a common illness among children, and that costs society a lot of money. From medication and other healthcare costs to lost work days for parents and such. The direct and indirect costs are estimated at between $3-5 billion just for the United States. But thing could be getting better thanks to improvements in air quality. A study conducted by researchers at UCLA and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that a reduction in air pollution over the past decade has reduced the number of ear infections in children.

Photo: Fickr, CC
The researchers reviewed National Health Interview Survey data for 120,060 children between the years of 1997 and 2006 and measured the number of instances of three disease conditions for each year -- frequent ear infections (three or more within a year), respiratory allergy and seizure activity, which is not influenced by air quality but was included as a control condition.

These numbers were then cross-referenced with the EPA's air-quality data on pollutants, including carbon monoxide, nitrous dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, for the same time period. The study authors discovered that as air quality steadily improved, the number of cases of frequent ear infections significantly decreased. (source)

This is a pretty intuitive result, but it's a very good think to have solid studies of this kind to help convince politicians and the general public that reducing air pollution can have all kinds of benefits, including some that they might never have thought about (not many parents will realize that their kid's illness might have been caused, or made worse, by air pollutants).

And this is just a study about ear infections... There are lots of other problems that can be caused by air pollution (especially respiratory diseases), and they also have high costs.

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