Air pollution, pollen, asthma and hayfever and their interactive effect on cognitive development: environment & health data linkage feasibility study

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: Institute of Life Science Medical School

Abstract

Asthma exacerbations are one, or a combination of; shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and chest tightness. High levels of air pollution and pollen (aeroallergens) are each thought to be associated with instances of asthma exacerbations and hayfever. In combination, some types of air pollution and pollen are thought to increase the likelihood of asthma exacerbations. This study builds on a smaller-scale pilot conducted by the project team focused just on twins who lived in the London area, which demonstrated that it was feasible to link such datasets and suggested that estimated levels of air pollution exposure were associated with depression, conduct disorder and ADHD at age 18. Given that pollution levels vary widely across the UK it is important to extend this initial work to the full UK sample. The proposed study will substantially improve upon existing studies in several ways. Firstly, we will use a cutting-edge estimation model that can predict air pollution exposure down to address level, which increases the accuracy of estimated exposure. Secondly, we will use a large well-characterised sample of twin children from across the UK who have been extensively assessed since birth thus enabling us to check that air pollution and psychiatric disorders are not spuriously associated due to other factors (e.g., socio-economic status, smoking, victimisation, physical illnesses). We will also compare the rates of psychiatric disorders in twins where one twin has been exposed to high levels of pollution and the other has been exposed to lower levels (due to living in different areas), which allows us to rule out genetic and environmental factors that we cannot measure directly thus increasing confidence in our findings. Overall, the quality of our densely-phenotyped cohort data, the high resolution of the pollution estimates, and powerful twin design, will guarantee the results of this project substantially advance our understanding of the role of air pollution exposure in the development of psychiatric disorders, thus moving us closer to prevention. We anticipate that this project will pave the way for additional innovative integrations of environmental data with the extensive cohort data available in the UK.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Irrespective of health status, exposure to NO2 was negatively associated with GCSE exam results. For a more accurate reflection of health status, health outcomes not subject to treatment seeking behaviour should be investigated. We found no association between PM2.5 nor O3 and GCSE exam results.

We have written up the results and successfully published them in the journal Health and Place.
Exploitation Route Sarah Rodgers is using the results of this award to inspire the creation of data linkage systems across the northwest coast through working with the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration where she leads the Care and Health Informatics theme. Working with public advisors and data providers, she is using these results as a case study for the utility of data linkage of environmental metrics to health and other administrative data at the individual level. She is also involved with work underway on air pollution in the region, particularly with Liverpool City Council, who have been influenced to consider health equity aspects of new air pollution policy using the results of this project.
Sectors Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

URL https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32543438/
 
Description The results of our study have been used by Air Quality experts in Liverpool City Council to consider health equity of new air pollution policy. They are also influencing the development of a new databank, the Civic Data Cooperative, funded by Liverpool Combined Region. We are working with our public advisors and data providers (e.g. General Practitioners) to demonstrate the importance of data linkage of environment data to health and other outcomes that are routinely collected for the importance of equitable public health. Most importantly, working with atmospheric scientists helped me to improve my interdisciplinary communication skills that have allowed me to more confidently talk to air quality experts, and to subsequently be invited to be a member of the steering group for the NIHR funded Born in Bradford Breathes project. This experiences also contributed to my development and success of the UK Prevention Research Partnership funding, GroundsWell. NERC is one of the funders for these consortia.
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport
 
Description International Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 50 people attended a concurrent session in at an international data linkage academic conference, questions and discussion followed the presentation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Interview for Innovation Agency 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Sarah Rodgers, Professor of Health Informatics, University of Liverpool, was speaking at a digital ecosystem event organised by the four AHSNs of the North - ourselves, Health Innovation Manchester, Yorkshire and Humber, and North East and North Cumbria.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48b_2wsCPyQ
 
Description Meeting with Public Health Wales 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A meeting with Public Health Wales to disscuss current results and proposed additional research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Poster presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A poster presented at the international Planetary Health Conference. Future potential collaborations were discussed with researchers and practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at Administrative Data Research Network conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A presentation was given at the ADRN conference. Discussion was centred around the methods and policy implications of the results.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at an NIHR Applied Research Collaboration NWC event on Air Pollution 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was an event organised on a theme of air pollution that has been highlighted as a priority by ARC NWC public advisors. There were clinical academics, community members, and policy makers present at this event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Presentation at national conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A presentation of the study's results at a national administrative data research conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018