This study is a part of the Study On Air Pollution and Health In Taiwan (SOAP and HIT), an ongoing research project involving cooperation of several universities in Taiwan. In this study, the objective was to evaluate the effects of ambient air pollution on respiratory symptoms and diseases of school children, in addition to considering indoor air pollution. Six communities were selected: one community located in a rural area (Taihsi), two in urban areas (Keelung and Sanchung), and the other three in petrochemical industrial areas (Toufen, Jenwu, and Linyuan). We sampled 5,072 primary school students in six communities from the main study population of SOAP and HIT. Respiratory health was assessed by evaluation of the children's respiratory symptoms and diseases using a parent-completed questionnaire. Data were analyzed using logistic regression analysis to compute odds ratios of adverse effect. The school children in the urban communities had significantly more respiratory symptoms (day or night cough, chronic cough, shortness of breath, and nasal symptoms) and diseases (sinusitis, wheezing or asthma, allergic rhinitis, and bronchitis) when compared with those living in the rural community. However, only nasal symptoms of children living in the petrochemical communities were more prevalent than in those living in the rural community. Although the association with ambient air pollution is suggestive, the cross-sectional study cannot confirm a causal relationship; thus further studies are needed.
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