The effects of ambient air pollution on school absenteeism due to respiratory illnesses

Frank D. Gilliland, Kiros Berhane, Edward B. Rappaport, Duncan C. Thomas, Edward Avol, W. James Gauderman, Stephanie J. London, Helene G Margolis, Rob McConnell, K. Talat Islam, John M. Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations


We investigated the relations between ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and respirable particles less than 10 μm in diameter (PM10) and school absenteeism in a cohort of 4th-grade school children who resided in 12 southern California communities. An active surveillance system ascertained the numbers and types of absences during the first 6 months of 1996. Pollutants were measured hourly at central-site monitors in each of the 12 communities. To examine acute effects of air pollution on absence rates, we fitted a two-stage time-series model to the absence count data that included distributed lag effects of exposure adjusted for long-term pollutant levels. Short-term change in O3, but not NO2 or PM10, was associated with a substantial increase in school absences from both upper and lower respiratory illness. An increase of 20 ppb of O3 was associated with an increase of 62.9% [95% confidence interval (95% CI) = 18.4-124.1%] for illness-related absence rates, 82.9% (95% CI = 3.9-222.0%) for respiratory illnesses, 45.1% (95% CI = 21.3-73.7%) for upper respiratory illnesses, and 173.9% (95% CI = 91.3-292.3%) for lower respiratory illnesses with wet cough. The short-term effects of a 20-ppb change of O3 on illness-related absenteeism were larger in communities with lower long-term average PM10 [223.5% (95% CI = 90.4-449.7)] compared with communities with high average levels [38.1% (95% CI = 8.5-75.8)]. Increased school absenteeism from O3 exposure in children is an important adverse effect of ambient air pollution worthy of public policy consideration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-54
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Air pollution
  • Ozone
  • Respiratory illnesses and children
  • School absenteeism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


Dive into the research topics of 'The effects of ambient air pollution on school absenteeism due to respiratory illnesses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this