Chemical Insights

Studying the Effects of Air Pollution on Children in China

International research from Underwriters Laboratories studies the impact of outdoor and indoor air pollutants on acute respiratory response of children.
Chinese child wearing face mask in smog

Tracking China’s indoor and outdoor air pollution

Industrialized regions of China suffer from outdoor and indoor air pollution that is above documented health standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). This is true for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone. 

Human exposure to these pollutants can occur both outdoors and indoors as these pollutants can infiltrate the indoor environment. In addition to outdoor sources, primary indoor sources of household air pollution can include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM) related to cooking, use of cleaning products and chemical emissions from furniture and building materials. 

However, the effects that this interplay of outdoor and indoor air pollution has on human health is much less widely understood—especially for children, who are particularly susceptible to the impact of air pollutants.

Chemical Insights is conducting ongoing research to measure and evaluate children’s daily exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution in China. The goal of these health studies is to determine its contribution to respiratory responses and to look at the effectiveness of indoor air cleaning as a way to reduce pollution’s acute health effects.

Collaborating to evaluate air pollution’s health impacts

This research is a collaborative study with researchers from Duke University in Kunshan, China, the University of Wisconsin in the U.S., Tsinghua University in China and health professionals from Shanghai General Hospital.

It centers on field studies with school children in Shanghai, an industrialized location with high levels of ambient air pollutants such as PM2.5 and ozone. Key components of the study include real-time personal monitoring of pollutant exposures and evaluation of non-invasive biomarkers, such as exhaled breath and urine, as indicators of inflammatory respiratory responses.

Improved understanding, better health outcomes

Underwriters Laboratories research will yield important new information on the impacts of air pollutants on the health of children in China and solutions to improve health outcomes. In addition to identifying exposure levels and sources of indoor and outdoor air pollution, it will help clarify the extent to which specific pollutants can influence children’s acute respiratory responses. 

Innovative tools being developed and evaluated include the application of economical pollutant sensors, personal exposure sampling packages and human biomarkers to enable the gathering of new data and provide important advancements for ongoing studies. In addition, an objective of the study is to provide important information on whether indoor filtration in homes is a viable solution for reducing pollutant exposure and improving health outcomes in children. 

Scientific processes developed during the research, as well as measured data and observations, will contribute to solutions for reducing children’s exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution, with positive implications for health.


Fast Facts

  • Regions of China suffer from poor air quality, with some pollutants above documented levels that are recommended by the WHO.

  • Underwriters Laboratories' research is determining the acute effects of pollutants, including PM, VOCs and ozone, on human health.

  • Research results will contribute to solutions for reducing children’s exposure to air pollution and improving health outcomes.