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LOS ANGELES, Sep 09, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- An 8-year study published Thursday indicates children who live in polluted communities are five times more likely to have clinically low lung function.
The study of 1,759 children as they progressed from 4th grade to 12th grade in the Los Angeles area had less than 80 percent of the lung function expected for their age.
The data from the Children's Health Study suggests pollutants from vehicle emissions and fossil fuels hinder lung development and limit breathing capacity for a lifetime.
"Lung development in teenagers determines their breathing capacity and health for the rest of their lives," said Dr. John Peters, Hastings Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine. "The potential long-term effects of reduced lung function are alarming. It's second only to smoking as a risk factor for mortality."
In healthy people, lungs grow to full capacity during the teenage years, but typically stop growing at age 18. Then, adults begin to lose lung function -- 1 percent each year after age 20.
The results of the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, are published in this week's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Copyright 2004 by United Press International.