Using protein profiling techniques, the researchers found the genes of infants breathing in environmentally persistent free radicals present in airborne ultra fine particulate matter produced a number of proteins -- including one associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and steroid-resistant asthma. The exposure to ultra fine air pollution also caused proteins to misfold, rendering them dysfunctional.
"It is no surprise that elevations in airborne particulate matter are associated with increased hospital admissions for respiratory symptoms including asthma exacerbations," study leader Stephania Cormier of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans said in a statement. "What has come as a surprise is that early exposure to elevated levels of particulate matter elicits long-term effects on lung function and lung development in children."
The study findings were presented at the 11th International Congress on Combustion By-Products and Their Health Effects held in Research Triangle Park, N.C.