Sept.16, 2005

McMaster launches landmark study on long-term impact of air pollution on health

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Susan Elliott, a professor in the School of Geography & Earth Sciences, and Michelle Vine, research associate are trying to get in touch with people who may have participated in an air quality study as children.

Hamilton, ON - Over 25 years ago, a McMaster researcher began a groundbreaking study to measure air quality and respiratory health of children in Hamilton. Now, the next generation of researchers at McMaster is taking the unprecedented step to contact those children in an attempt to understand the long-term effects of air pollution.

“We’re trying to understand how exposure to air pollution as children impacts their health as young adults,” explains Susan Elliott, a professor in the School of Geography & Earth Sciences.

Elliott is following up on the work of David Pengelly, now a retired professor of respirology. Between 1979 and 1986, Pengelly and colleagues including Tony Kerigan and Charlie Goldsmith took comprehensive air quality readings at more than 20 locations within the former boundaries of the City of Hamilton. At the same time, he studied the respiratory health of 3,500 Hamilton children. His analysis revealed that higher pollution levels had a short-term effect on the respiratory health of children with asthma.

Elliott is hoping that people who participated in the original study as children will participate in this new study group. “People in Hamilton are very interested in issues of air quality and health. Using and Canada 411, which are electronic forms of the phonebook found on the World Wide Web, we were able this summer to send letters to parents of 1,500 children who participated in the study. We are already getting surveys back and the response has been tremendously positive. We’re hoping that through the media, we will be able to get in contact with more children we haven’t been able to reach.”

The McMaster study is the first time any research group has tried to reconnect with study participants in this way.

People who believe they may have participated in the study are asked to contact Michelle Vine, research associate on the project, at 905-525-9140 ext. 23139 or or Susan Elliott at 905-525-9140 ext. 23768 or

McMaster University, named Canada’s Research University of the Year by Research InfoSource, has world-renowned faculty, and state-of-the-art research facilities. McMaster's culture of innovation fosters a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University has a student population of more than 23,000, and an alumni population of more than 115,000 in 128 countries.