Improved air quality leads to fewer ear infections in U.S. babies

08:57, February 12, 2010      

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U.S. children are having fewer ear infections than in years past because air quality has been improved since environmental laws were tightened, a new study available here on Monday suggests.

To determine the link between air quality and baby ear infections, researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital analyzed data on baby ear infections across the nation.

The researchers attributed the drop in baby ear infections to the fact that smog has been significantly reduced in major American cities since clean air laws were passed in the 1970s, and particularly since a major tightening of the Clean Air Act in 1990.

Pediatric ear infections are one of the most-miserable maladies that can affect a baby or toddler, often causing them to scream for hours in pain. The illness has a direct cost of between three billion and five billion dollars in the U.S. each year, the researchers said in the study.

Doctors at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, said medicine had always thought atmospheric pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrous dioxide, sulfur dioxide and tiny particulates caused ear infection in babies.

"We believe these findings, which demonstrate a direct correlation between air quality and ear infections, have both medical and political significance," said UCLA Dr. Nina Shapiro.

The findings were published in the Feb. edition of " Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery," a medical journal.

Source: Xinhua
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