First findings focusing on children’s lung and blood vessel health released

A Hazelwood Health Study analysis has found weak evidence for a link between higher mine fire smoke exposure and small increases in lung stiffness in children who were aged up to two at the time of the fire. Lung stiffness was one of three indicators of lung health that were measured in the study.

The analysis also found weak evidence for a link between higher mine fire smoke exposure in children who were aged up to two at the time of the mine fire and slightly increased blood vessel stiffness, although these changes were very small.

Reassuringly, no associations were seen between mine fire smoke exposure and any of these health outcomes in children whose mothers were pregnant with them at the time of the fire. However the research did show that cigarette smoking during pregnancy was clearly linked with both blood vessel and lung changes in children.

HHS researcher Dr Fay Johnston cautioned that although the results were suggestive of a possible link between mine fire smoke exposure during infancy and lung or blood vessel health, the evidence was not strong.

“We cannot rule out the possibility that the results occurred by chance, or were due to other unmeasured factors that can affect blood vessel or lung health,” Dr Johnston said.

“We need to do further studies to confirm these results. It is possible that these results will change as children get older, so it is important to follow their progress to see if changes in lung or blood vessel function continue or go away.”

The lung tests were carried out on 105 children. They involved using small vibrations to see how easily air goes in and out while children breathed through a tube. The heart tests involved using ultrasounds to test the blood vessel thickness and stiffness of 248 children.

The research team estimated how much mine fire smoke each child had been exposed to by looking at where the child (or mother if pregnant at the time) was each day during the fire and how polluted the air in the area was.

This analysis was conducted by the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania as part of the larger, Monash University-led Hazelwood Health Study.

This research was funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

To view a summary of these findings, visit http://hazelwoodhealthstudy.org.au/study-findings/fact-sheets-and-summaries/ or to request a copy of the full technical reports, please call 1800 985 899 or email [email protected]