Pollution Levels Below Ambient Air Quality Standards Correlate to Asthma-Related Emergency Room Visits in New Haven

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John Wargo
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The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are set to protect both public health and public welfare. The criteria air pollutants, determined by the EPA to have negative health effects on exposed populations, are measured and averaged over varying time periods. To examine whether the NAAQS are sufficient in their ability to protect the respiratory health of those most vulnerable in society, this study compares ambient air concentrations of NO2, SO2, O3, PM10, and PM2.5 in New Haven over 2018, to asthma-related emergency room (ER) visits of children between ages of 1-12 years old in New Haven over 2018. The study analyzes time-shifted responses of ER visits to ambient air concentrations of pollutants, in order to examine direct versus delayed respiratory responses to pollution exposure. Results determined that a yearly correlation existed between ER visits and ambient air concentrations of NO2 (correlation = 0.448) and SO2 (correlation = 0.339) below the NAAQS. The study also found that spikes in ambient air concentrations of NO2, SO2, PM10, and PM2.5 below the NAAQS in May 2018 correlated directly to ER admissions on a day-by-day basis but also to ER admissions two weeks after spikes of pollution. Overall, the study suggests that air pollution below the NAAQS has the potential to cause direct and delayed asthmatic responses in children between the ages of 1-12 years old. However, the study calls for more research to examine safe threshold levels and dose-responses of pollution exposure to enhance the confidence that can be put into the NAAQS.