Air pollution and upper respiratory symptoms in children from East Germany

E. Von Mutius, Duane L Sherrill, C. Fritzsch, F. D. Martinez, M. D. Lebowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Whereas evidence of adverse effects of air pollution on lower respiratory tract illnesses in children is increasing, little is known about the effects of high and moderate levels of air pollution on the incidence of upper respiratory illnesses. 9 to 11 year old schoolchildren (n=1,854) living in Leipzig, East Germany were studied. The presence of upper respiratory symptoms was documented by a physician. Daily mean and maximum concentrations of SO2, particulate matter (PM) and NO(x), as well as temperature and humidity, were measured. Furthermore, a self-administered questionnaire was distributed to the parents to assess confounding factors. Parents of 1,500 (81%) children returned the questionnaire. When controlling for paternal education, passive smoke exposure, number of siblings, temperature and humidity, increased risks for the development of upper respiratory symptoms were found in the winter months for SO2 mean concentrations (odds ratio (OR)=1.72; 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.19-2.49), NO(x) mean concentrations (OR=1.53; 95% CI 1.01-2.31) and PM maximum values (OR=1.62; 95% CI 1.08-2.45). In the summer months, only NO(x) mean concentrations were associated with a significantly increased risk (OR=1.82; 95% CI 1.21-2.73). A combination of high mean levels of different pollutants resulted in the highest risk (OR=2.10; 95% CI 1.303.37 in the winter, and OR=2.16; 95% CI 1.23-3.81 in the summer). We conclude that high concentrations of SO2, and moderate levels of particulate matters and NO(x) are associated with an increased risk of developing upper respiratory symptoms in childhood. The highest risk was found when the concentrations of all three pollutants ranged in their upper quartiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-728
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1995


  • NO(x)
  • SO
  • air pollution
  • epidemiology
  • particulate matter
  • upper respiratory symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Air pollution and upper respiratory symptoms in children from East Germany'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this