Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 239–250 | Cite as

Asthma exacerbation is associated with particulate matter source factors in children in New York City

  • Annette C. RohrEmail author
  • Rima Habre
  • James Godbold
  • Erin Moshier
  • Neil Schachter
  • Meyer Kattan
  • Avi Grunin
  • Amit Nath
  • Brent Coull
  • Petros Koutrakis


Exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is linked with asthma exacerbation; however, the role played by specific PM sources is not well understood. Our objective was to investigate the associations between daily cough and wheeze symptoms in a panel of asthmatic children and PM source factors determined by receptor modeling using positive matrix factorization (PMF). We studied 36 children with moderate-to-severe asthma in New York City over both a warm and a cold season. Exposure to ambient air pollutants, including PM2.5 elements and elemental and organic carbon fractions, was characterized. The mean ambient PM2.5 concentration for the study periods was 12.0 ± 6.7 μg/m3. Six factors were resolved using PMF, including oil, road dust, ships, regional, salt, and traffic. When adjusted for ozone, cough and wheeze symptoms were most strongly associated with the regional and salt factors. Results using tracer elements (as determined from PMF analyses) showed some inconsistency, with two tracers for road dust (K and Si) showing associations in opposite directions to each other. Positive associations were also observed for S, which is a tracer of regional PM. Significant negative associations were observed for the oil factor and one of its tracers (Zn). Mostly nonsignificant associations were found for carbon fractions, with the exception of pyrolized carbon and two elemental carbon fractions. Our results indicate that asthma symptoms are associated with regional and salt factors. In this study, the regional factor was comprised of sulfate as well as carbon-containing PM, the latter which is likely derived from both anthropogenic and biogenic sources.


Air pollution Particulate matter Asthma Pulmonary function Source apportionment 



Elemental carbon


Organic carbon


Particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter <2.5 μm


Positive matrix factorization



This study was supported by the Electric Power Research Institute (EP-P15909/C7932). We would like to thank Tom Gentile, George O'Connor, and Lance Wallace for participating in the project Scientific Advisory Committee and for their valuable guidance during the course of this research. Dr. Rohr is employed by the Electric Power Research Institute, which is primarily supported by the electric industry in the USA and abroad. EPRI is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that funds external research at a number of universities and institutes worldwide. Other authors declare no other conflicts of interest, personal, financial, or otherwise, with the material presented in the manuscript.

Supplementary material

11869_2013_230_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplemental Table S-1 (DOCX 19 kb)
11869_2013_230_MOESM2_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplemental Table S-2 (DOCX 15 kb)
11869_2013_230_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (19 kb)
Supplemental Table S-3 Correlation matrix for PM components (XLSX 19 kb)
11869_2013_230_MOESM4_ESM.docx (183 kb)
Figure S-1 (DOCX 183 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annette C. Rohr
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Rima Habre
    • 2
  • James Godbold
    • 3
  • Erin Moshier
    • 3
  • Neil Schachter
    • 3
  • Meyer Kattan
    • 4
  • Avi Grunin
    • 3
  • Amit Nath
    • 3
  • Brent Coull
    • 2
  • Petros Koutrakis
    • 2
  1. 1.Electric Power Research InstitutePalo AltoUSA
  2. 2.Harvard University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Mount Sinai School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.Electric Power Research InstituteRedmondUSA

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