Chronic traffic-related air pollution and stress interact to predict biologic and clinical outcomes in asthma

Edith Chen*, Hannah M C Schreier, Robert C. Strunk, Michael Brauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Scopus citations


Background: Previous research has documented effects of both physical and social environmental exposures on childhood asthma. However, few studies have considered how these two environments might interact to affect asthma. Objective: This study aimed to test interactions between chronic exposure to traffic-related air pollution and chronic family stress in predicting biologic and clinical outcomes in children with asthma. Method: Children with asthma (n = 73, 9-18 years of age) were interviewed about life stress, and asthma-relevant inflammatory markers [cytokine production, immunoglobulin E (IgE), eosinophil counts] were measured. Parents reported on children's symptoms. Children completed daily diaries of symptoms and peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) measures at baseline and 6 months later. Exposure to traffic related air pollution was assessed using a lahd use regression model for nitrogen dioxide was concentrations. Results: NO2 by stress interactions were found for interleukin-5 (β for interaction term = -0.31, p = 0.02), IgE (interaction β = -0.29, p = 0.02), and eosinophil counts (interaction β = -0.24, p = 0.04). These interactions showed that higher chronic stress was. associated with heightened inflammatory profiles as pollution levels decreased. Longitudinally, NO2 by stress interactions emerged for daily diary symptoms (interaction β = -0.28, p = 0.02), parent-reported symptoms (interaction β = -0.25, p = 0.07), and PEFR (interaction β = -0.30, p = 0.03). These interactions indicated that higher chronic stress was associated with incrcases over time in symptoms and decreases over time in PEFR as pollution levels decreased. Conclusions: The physical and social environments interacted in predicting both biologic and clinical outcomes in children with asthma, suggesting that when pollution exposure is more modest, vulnerability to asthma exacerbations may be heightened in children with higher chronic stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)970-975
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • Air pollution
  • Asthma
  • Immune
  • Psychosocial
  • Stress
  • Traffic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Chronic traffic-related air pollution and stress interact to predict biologic and clinical outcomes in asthma'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this