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New Study Identifies Link Between Household Air Pollution and Child Pneumonia

Study was recently published in The Lancet Global Health

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new study published in The Lancet Global Health involving researchers from the University of Liverpool and RTI International provides greater understanding of the impact household air pollution can have on the development of child pneumonia.

Through exposure-response analysis of 485 Malawian children, a statistically significant 10% increase in risk of Streptococcus pneumoniae carriage in children was observed by the research team for a unit increase (deciles) of exposure to fine particulate matter.

The research team used RTI MicroPEM, a device designed and built by RTI scientists, to measure particulate matter exposure in the children.

Dr. Mukesh Dherani, the study principal investigator, said: “This study provides us with greater insight into the impact household air pollution can have on the development of child pneumonia. These findings provide important new evidence of intermediary steps in the causal pathway of household air pollution exposure to pneumonia and provide a platform for future mechanistic studies.”

Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major human pathogen causing more than two million deaths per year; more than HIV/AIDS, measles and malaria combined. It is the leading cause of death due to infectious disease in children under 5 years old but is also part of the normal microbial community of the human upper airways. The burden of pneumococcal carriage and pneumonia is particularly high in sub-Saharan Africa.

Household air pollution from solid fuels increases the risk of childhood pneumonia, past research shows. The presence of Streptococcus pneumoniae can be a precursor to the development of pneumococcal pneumonia.

It is estimated that household air pollution from the burning of biomass and the inefficient use of fuel accounts for approximately 3.8 million premature deaths annually and approximately 45% of all pneumonia deaths in children aged younger than 5 years. However, there has been little evidence that identifies the causal pathway that links household air pollution and pneumonia.

“This research further highlights the risks of fine particulate matter and makes it clear that we need to engage in efforts to reduce its presence in homes,” said co-author Ryan Chartier, a research chemist at RTI.

View the full study