Sooty air linked to weakened immune systems in infants

Posted by Mark Grossi on January 14, 2014 

Hazy sky over the San Joaquin Valley.

MARK CROSSE — Fresno Bee Staff Photo Buy Photo

As the San Joaquin Valley copes with the dangerous soot siege this winter, a new study has emerged suggesting a link between this stuff and a weakened immune system in developing lungs of infants.

The California Air Resources Board study was performed by the University of California at Davis, observing young rhesus macaque monkeys during the intense wildfires of 2008.

The results showed the animals exposed to the high concentrations of soot could not fight off bacterial infections as well as monkeys that were born the next year. The monkeys exposed in 2008 also had reduced lung functions.

Researchers suggested that high exposures to soot, known as PM2.5, may harm an infant's ability to fight infection.

If you were wondering, the lungs of monkeys are considered quite similar to humans, researchers say. 

But here's the most interesting part to me: The soot levels in this research were actually lower than the San Joaquin Valley's readings last month. 

In other words, Valley children playing outside are exposed to soot pollution beyond the levels at which researchers found problems in this study.

There are some key differences, though. The pollution-exposed monkeys, which had been born in the three months prior to the wildfires, actually lived outdoors. That's a lot of exposure.



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