Have you heard the news?  A new study out of Canada links air quality to a child's risk of developing ear infections.

Earlier studies have suggested that air quality can play a role in a child's vulnerability to middle-ear infections.  Exposure to second-hand smoke, for example, has been linked to higher risk of ear infections.  But the Canadian study looked specifically at the link between outdoor air quality and otis media, the medical name for the common middle ear infections that plague many babies and children.

For the study, researchers examined medical data for middle-ear infections for the first two years of the life of 45,000 children born in southwestern British Columbia from 1999-2000.  They used data from government air-quality monitors to estimate each child's exposure to air pollutants, based on the family's home address.

When they compared incidence of children's ear infections with a child's air-pollution exposure, they found that found a definite correlation between ear infections and exposure to certain pollutants, even after controlling for such factors as the time of year. 

For example, researchers found that children with the highest exposure to nitric oxide, a traffic-related pollutant, were 10 per cent more likely to have a doctor visit for middle-ear infection than those with the lowest exposure.  Other air pollutants that influenced a child's risk for ear infections were particulate matter -- the fine particles emitted via car exhaust and industrial sources -- and smoke from wood burning.  In fact, children breathing the highest levels of wood smoke were 32 per cent more likely to have doctor visits for middle-ear infections than those breathing the least.

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