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For Kids, the Great Outdoors May Not Always Be So Great

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"Reductions of 3.4% and 5% do not seem like much, but one has to remember that we are talking about growing lungs," Gong says. "We don't know what the long-term effects of this delayed maturation will have on adult health."

Gauderman explains: "What happens with lung growth is that capacity will grow in females until about age 18, and in males until the early 20s. Then growth plateaus for about 10 years, and beginning in the late 20s both males and females start to lose function. These kids in the higher-pollution communities may be plateauing at a lower level, suggesting that they will have lower lung function as adults."

The USC researchers are still following the children who have not graduated from high school, and they plan to publish data after eight years of follow-up. They also hope to find funding to follow the group into adulthood, in an effort to document the long-term effects of air pollution on their lung function.

 

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