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No Deep Breathing: Air pollution impedes lung development

Spending one's childhood in a community with polluted air stalls lung development roughly as much as does having a mother who smokes, according to a study of children growing up in southern California.

That finding lengthens the list of negative effects on health that stem from bad air (SN: 8/2/03, p. 72: Air Sickness), but it also suggests that antipollution measures could prevent deficits in pulmonary development.

Adolescence is prime growing time for lungs. To evaluate the effects of air pollution during this important period, W. James Gauderman of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and his colleagues in 1993 tested the lung capacity of 1,759 fourth graders in a dozen southern California communities, including some notably clean areas and some of the most polluted towns in the United States.

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