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  MARCH 30, 2012
Columbia Links Pollution from Trucks and Heating Oil to Childhood Asthma Hot Spots
PerzanowskiAccording to a new study by scientists at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, neighborhood differences in rates of childhood asthma may be explained by varying levels of air pollution from trucks and residential heating oil. Researchers found that levels of airborne black carbon, which mostly comes from incomplete combustion sources like diesel trucks and oil furnaces, were high in homes of children with asthma. They also reported elevated levels of black carbon within homes in neighborhoods with high asthma prevalence and high densities of truck routes and homes burning low-grade or “dirty” heating oil.

“This study adds to the evidence that further public health interventions on oil and truck emissions standards and the use of dirty oil may be warranted. This is especially timely as New York City considers regulations to further reduce the burning of low-grade oil for domestic heating,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Matthew Perzanowski, associate professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia.

The study may be the first to show an association between airborne black carbon in the home and proximity to buildings burning dirty oil (low-grade, types 4 and 6). The researchers point out that these fuels produce more byproducts of incomplete combustion than cleaner oil or natural gas and contribute substantially to air pollution. Buildings that burn dirty oil are unevenly distributed throughout the city, which could help explain disparities in health.

[Photo: Dr. Matthew Perzanowski]