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Toddlers' risk of allergies increases when they're exposed to multiple air pollutants

The study confirms another way in which air pollution affects consumers’ health

Photo (c) filadendron - Getty Images
Recent studies have explored the countless ways that the youngest population is vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. Researchers have already found how both physical and mental health is affected by such exposure. 

Now, researchers from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology found that toddlers are at an increased risk of allergies when they’re exposed to multiple air pollutants early in life. 

“The increase in the average amount of time indoors means there is an increased risk of harmful health outcomes related to exposure to indoor air pollutants,” said researcher Dr. Anne K. Ellis. “Additionally, children breathe more frequently per minute than adults, and mostly breathe through their mouths. These differences could allow for air pollutants to penetrate more deeply into the lungs and at higher concentrations, making children more vulnerable to air pollutants.” 

Understanding the risks

The researchers analyzed allergy sensitivity in two-year-olds, tracking infants’ exposure to air pollutants from before they were born until they reached the age of two. 

The children in the study had their exposure to various pollutants tested at four different thresholds: prenatal, six months, one year, and two years, and during the final check, both the children and their mothers received a skin prick allergy test to determine their sensitivities at this age. 

“We examined exposure to dogs, cats, air fresheners, candles, mold, environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), and carpet, all of which have been associated with childhood allergies,” said researcher Mallory Gallant. 

Ultimately, the researchers found that children were more likely to test positive for allergy sensitivities at two years old when they were exposed to more pollutants earlier in life. 

While a positive allergy test doesn’t necessarily mean that a substance is of great danger to the child, the researchers say that exposure could lead to an allergic reaction. This information is important for parents, as they’ll know what substances could be triggers and can eliminate them from the home in order to reduce the risk of a potential reaction. 

Moving forward, the researchers want to emphasize that the combination of such pollutants is what parents should be most mindful of with their young ones, as early and consistent exposure was the key to children testing positive for allergies in this study. 

“When considered together, the findings suggest that the effect of multiple exposures may contribute more to allergy development than one single exposure,” said Dr. Ellis. 

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