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LUNG GROWTH TRACKED AMONG KIDS LANCASTER CHILDREN REPRESENT THE AVERAGE.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

LANCASTER - More than halfway through a decade-long study on lung development, Lancaster children are ``in middle of the pack'' when compared with other children in Southern California, early results show.

Since 1993, several hundred Lancaster schoolchildren have been participating in a 10-year study by the University of Southern California to learn how children's lungs are affected by such factors as heredity, events during pregnancy and birth, and exposure to air pollution, tobacco smoke and cooking fuels.

``We are tracking how lungs are growing and how they are growing from the time (children) are in the fourth grade to the time they are in high school,'' said Ed Avol, assistant director of the study.

``In terms of lung-function growth, it looks like Lancaster is pretty much in the middle.''

The study - considered the first of its kind - will calculate breathing capacity, youngsters' activity levels, their classroom absences due to respiratory illness, and air quality inside and outside homes and classrooms, researchers said.

About 300 youngsters in fourth, seventh and 10th grades in Antelope Valley schools were selected to participate in the study when it began, along with 300 pupils from other Southern California communities, researchers said. The communities are Atascadero, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Lancaster, Long Beach, San Dimas, Upland, Mira Loma, Riverside, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Elsinore and Alpine.

About 200 children in Lancaster are still being followed in the study, Avol said.

Lancaster's air quality - measured by the presence of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particles and acids - also has been rated average among the 12 cities, said Avol, an associate professor at the USC Keck School of Medicine.

During the annual lung tests, youngsters take a deep breath and exhale forcefully into a spirometer, which measures lung capacity. The test helps determine how clear the lungs are and how well air can move through the organs.

Children with slower lung function growth rates are from communities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where it is smoggier, and there are higher particle measurements and emissions from cars, Avol said.

``The issue is the kids that live in more polluted communities, their lungs don't seem to be growing as fast as kids that are living in clean communities,'' Avol said. ``That raises a couple of points. It may be there's a growth spurt later on and they catch up. Maybe they never catch up.''

Measurements of air pollutants between 1994 and 1996 indicate Lancaster averaged about 33 parts per billion for ozone, and that average was fairly consistent from year to year, Avol said.

The other communities in the study varied from a low of about 20 parts per billion to a high of about 65 parts per billion, with most communities in the range of 25 to 35 parts per billion, Avol said.

For PM10, or particles smaller than ten microns in diameter, Lancaster averaged about 25 micrograms per cubic meter, compared to a range of about 15 to 70 micrograms per cubic meter in other communities, Avol said.

The PM10 average for all 12 communities was about 30 micrograms per cubic meter.

For nitrogen dioxide, the Lancaster average was about 18 parts per billion, compared to a community range of five to 41 parts per billion, with the 12-community average being about 18 parts per billion, Avol said.

The state, through the California Air Resources Board, has granted USC a $2 million contract for the first two years of the study. Local and federal air quality agencies have contributed to the project.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 16, 2000
Words:585
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