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Keywords:

  • inflammation;
  • ozone;
  • children;
  • epidemiology

Background Eosinophil activation is characteristic for allergic airways disease. However, eosinophilic airways inflammation has also been observed subsequent to ambient ozone exposure.

Methods For a population sample of 877 children living at nine sites with different ozone exposure we measured urinary eosinophil protein X (U-EPX) as a marker of eosinophil activation. U-EPX was determined from a single spot urine sample during autumn 1997. Children were participants in a longitudinal study of ozone effects on lung function.

Results The 5–95% percentiles of ozone exposure (30-day mean before test) were 11.8–51.5 p.p.b. (mean: 31.6 ppb). U-EPX was measured by radioimmunoassay and expressed as ratio to urinary creatinine (µg EPX/mmol creatinine). Log transformation was performed to achieve a normal distribution. LogU-EPX was associated with gender, a diagnosis of asthma and atopy (skin test sensitivity to any of seven aeroallergens). LogU-EPX increased with ozone exposure for all children. The medians of LogU-EPX according to the first–fourth quartiles of ozone exposure were: 1.82, 1.88, 1.95 and 2.03. For 172 non-asthmatic children who had spent the whole summer at their site corresponding figures were 1.57, 1.78, 2.07 and 2.13. In a multivariate model with logU-EPX being the dependent variable and adjusted for gender, site and atopy, ozone was found to be significant (estimate: 0.007 µg/mmol creatinine per ppb ozone; SE:0.02; P < 0.001).

Conclusion Our observation supports the hypothesis that ozone in healthy children is associated with eosinophil inflammation, most likely in the airways.