John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


Air quality in Noumea and the respiratory health of children. A panel study Volume 16, issue 5, September-October 2017


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1 École des hautes études en santé publique
Avenue du Pr. Léon Bernard
35043 Rennes
2 DASS Nouvelle-Calédonie
5, rue Galliéni BP n̊4
98851 Nouméa
3 Scal’Air
12 bis, rue Léonard de Vinci
98800 Nouméa
4 SEPIA Santé
Zone de Kermarec, route de Pontivy
56150 Baud
5, rue de Madrid
67300 Schiltigheim
* Tirés à part
  • Key words: Noumea, air pollution, SO2, children
  • DOI : 10.1684/ers.2017.1064
  • Page(s) : 462-71
  • Published in: 2017

Air quality in Noumea (New Caledonia) is a topic of public concern, especially in view of an industrial complex in the city that intermittently emits sulfur dioxide (SO2) along with other air pollutants. The available literature is relatively old and concerns essentially asthmatic children highly exposed to SO2. We conducted a 6-week panel study (July to September, 2012) of 469 schoolchildren aged 8-12, attending 7 volunteer primary schools located close to stations performing routine monitoring for SO2, particulate matter of mean aerodynamic diameter <10 μm (PM10), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Individual clinical data were recorded daily by the children under supervision. Associations between exposure to air pollutants and symptom onset were tested first with multivariate regression Generalized Additive Mixed Models (GAMM) and then with Generalized Estimating Equation (GEE) linear models. Lags from exposure until onset were estimated through univariate GEEs. During the cold season, some symptoms (eye and nose irritation [OR=1.06; 95% confidence interval=1.02-1.07], coughing [OR=1.08; 1.04-1.13], and breathing difficulties [OR=1.13; 1.07-1.20]) were associated with variations in SO2 concentrations in the overall population of children, especially the Melanesians. Noxious effects of NO2 were exhibited by the more susceptible children (those with current or recent asthma or allergic rhinitis). These results are in line with the literature. Thus air pollution including SO2 exposure in this setting can produce symptoms in all schoolchildren.