Air Pollution - From Smog In Mexico City To Cockroache Allergens
By Barry Chamish

CHICAGO ( - Mexico City's air pollution, said to be the world's worst, may be increasing the rate of infant deaths there, a researcher reported Tuesday.
The finding came from a study that looked at an area in the southwest part of the city where 2.5 million of Mexico City's 18 million inhabitants live, said Margarita Castillejos, a physician and researcher at Universidad Autonoma in the Mexican capital.
She told a news conference that minute particles, or particulate matter, blowing from industrial areas in the northern part of the city was part of the problem. Also cited were other elements of urban smog like sulfur dioxide and nitric dioxide.
A study of death records for children under the age of 1 found an average of three deaths per day in the area under scrutiny from 1993 to 1995.
But small increases in particulate matter corresponded to an increase in the death rate of up to 5 percent.
Excess mortality also was linked to other pollutants, Castillegos said, leading researchers to believe that in general, infant deaths in Mexico City are associated with air pollution.
She said while particulate matter can cause lung damage, the exact cause of death had not been determined. "We are just analyzing these data," she said.
Castillejos presented her findings at an international conference of the American Lung Association and the American Thoracic Society.
Heavy industry, a large number of old vehicles and Mexico City's mountain-ringed altitude of 7,347 feet have for years combined to create severe air pollution.
Castillejos spoke at a news briefing with Patrick Kinney of the Columbia School of Public Health in New York. Kinney found that childhood exposure to cigarette smoke in the home causes diminished lung function.
He said he based his finding on a study of 1,500 college students who had never smoked. In general those whose mothers smoked as they were growing up had diminished lung function.
Even after they were away at college, the change could still be picked up using devices that record the flow rate from the lungs, showing that "the effects that occurred during childhood are persisting into young adulthood," he said.
A third researcher on the panel, Augusto Litonjua of Harvard University, said that allergies to cockroaches could account for some cases of childhood asthma.
He said a study of Boston-area families found that children newly diagnosed with asthma over an 11-month period were more likely to have come from homes where dust samples found cockroach allergens.
But he said the matter was still under investigation and it was not known if the children in the study were actually allergic to cockroaches or whether other factors were at work.

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