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Respiratory and atopic conditions in children two to four years after the 2014 Hazelwood coalmine fire

Willis, GA, Chappell, K ORCID: 0000-0003-0842-6316, Williams, S, Melody, SM ORCID: 0000-0002-6692-739X, Wheeler, A ORCID: 0000-0001-9288-8163, Dalton, M, Dharmage, SC, Zosky, GR ORCID: 0000-0001-9039-0302 and Johnston, FH ORCID: 0000-0002-5150-8678 2020 , 'Respiratory and atopic conditions in children two to four years after the 2014 Hazelwood coalmine fire' , Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 213, no. 6 , pp. 269-275 , doi: 10.5694/mja2.50719.

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Objective: To evaluate associations between exposure during early life to mine fire smoke and parent-reported indicators of respiratory and atopic illness 2-4 years later. Design, setting: The Hazelwood coalmine fire exposed a regional Australian community to markedly increased air pollution during February - March 2014. During June 2016 - October 2018 we conducted a prospective cohort study of children from the Latrobe Valley. Participants: Seventy-nine children exposed to smoke in utero, 81 exposed during early childhood (0-2 years of age), and 129 children conceived after the fire (ie, unexposed). Exposure: Individualised mean daily and peak 24-hour fire-attributable fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure during the fire period, based on modelled air quality and time-activity data. Main outcome measures: Parent-reported symptoms, medications use, and contacts with medical professionals, collected in monthly online diaries for 29 months, 2-4 years after the fire. Results: In the in utero exposure analysis (2678 monthly diaries for 160 children exposed in utero or unexposed), each 10 μg/m3 increase in mean daily PM2.5 exposure was associated with increased reports of runny nose/cough (relative risk [RR], 1.09; 95% CI, 1.02-1.17), wheeze (RR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.18-2.07), seeking health professional advice (RR, 1.17; 95% CI 1.06-1.29), and doctor diagnoses of upper respiratory tract infections, cold or flu (RR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.14-1.60). Associations with peak 24-hour PM2.5 exposure were similar. In the early childhood exposure analysis (3290 diaries for 210 children exposed during early childhood, or unexposed), each 100 μg/m3 increase in peak 24-hour PM2.5 exposure was associated with increased use of asthma inhalers (RR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.01-1.58).Conclusions: Exposure to mine fire smoke in utero was associated with increased reports by parents of respiratory infections and wheeze in their children 2-4 years later.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Willis, GA and Chappell, K and Williams, S and Melody, SM and Wheeler, A and Dalton, M and Dharmage, SC and Zosky, GR and Johnston, FH
Keywords: air pollutants, atopy, child health, emergencies, population health, respiratory tract infections
Journal or Publication Title: Medical Journal of Australia
Publisher: Australasian Med Publ Co Ltd
ISSN: 0025-729X
DOI / ID Number: 10.5694/mja2.50719
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© 2020 AMPCo Pty Ltd

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