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Fresno Study Broadens Links Between Air Pollution, Health, DNA

Jan 16, 2018

Last week, we brought you a report about the San Joaquin Valley’s recent bout of smoggy air, which in Bakersfield was the longest consecutive episode of unhealthy PM2.5 levels in decades.

We wanted to know: What are the consequences of air pollution on our health? Health centers across the Valley reported an uptick in cases related to asthma attacks and other respiratory flare-ups, but a new research paper published earlier this month explores the longer-term impacts of air pollution exposure--namely how it can affect our DNA and in turn our immune system function.

Dr. John Balmes
Credit University of California

It’s the latest study to come out of a huge research initiative called the Children’s Health and Air Pollution Study (CHAPS), which involves researchers at UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, Stanford, UCSF Fresno and Fresno State. In the last few years, CHAPS researchers have enrolled hundreds of kids in Fresno in their study from birth into teenagehood, with the goal of tracking their health and environmental exposures over many years.

In this interview we speak with CHAPS member Dr. John Balmes, a pulmonary physician and environmental health researcher with the University of California, about this latest study, which finds a link between exposure to some air pollutants and reduced function of the immune system.