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Young children are particularly vulnerable to otitis media (OM) which globally affects over 80% of children below the age of 3 years. Although there is convincing evidence for an association between environmental tobacco smoke exposure and OM in children, the relationship with ambient air pollution is not clear. We aimed to systematically review the literature on the relationship between ambient air pollution exposure and OM in children. A systematic search was performed in PubMed and EMBASE databases. Of 934 references identified, 24 articles were included. There is an increasing body of evidence supporting an association between higher ambient air pollution exposure and a higher risk of OM in children. While NO2 showed the most consistent association with OM, other specific pollutants showed inconsistent associations. Studies were mainly conducted in high/middle income countries with limited evidence from low-income countries. Although there was a general consensus that higher air pollution exposure is associated with a greater prevalence of OM, the evidence for associations with specific pollutants is inconsistent. More well-designed studies on associations between specific air pollutants as risk factors for OM are warranted, especially in low income countries with high air pollution levels.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.