Effect of indoor nitrogen dioxide on lung function in urban environment

13 November 2019

Cibella, F., Cuttitta, G., Della Maggiore, R., Ruggieri, S., Panunzi, S., De Gaetano, A., Bucchieri, S., Drago, G., Melis, M.R., La Grutta, S., Viegi, G.

Environmental Research, 2015, 138, 8-16.


High levels of indoor NO2 are associated with increased asthma symptoms and decreased expiratory peak flows in children. We investigated the association of exposure to domestic indoor NO2, objectively measured in winter and spring, with respiratory symptoms and lung function in a sample of adolescents from a southern Mediterranean area.


From a large school population sample (n=2150) participating in an epidemiological survey in the urban area of the City of Palermo (southern Italy), a sub-sample of 303 adolescents was selected which furnished an enriched sample for cases of current asthma. All subjects were evaluated by a health questionnaire, skin prick tests and spirometry. One-week indoor NO2 monitoring of their homes was performed by diffusive sampling during spring and again during winter.


We found that about 25% of subjects were exposed to indoor NO2 levels higher than the 40 µg/m3 World Health Organization limit, during both spring and winter. Moreover, subjects exposed to the highest indoor NO2 concentrations had increased frequency of current asthma (p=0.005), wheeze episodes in the last 12 months (p<0.001), chronic phlegm (p=0.013), and rhinoconjunctivitis (p=0.008). Finally, subjects with a personal history of wheeze ever had poorer respiratory function (FEF25–75%, p=0.01) when exposed to higher indoor NO2 concentrations.


Home exposure to high indoor NO2 levels frequently occurs in adolescents living in a southern Mediterranean urban area and is significantly associated with the risks for increased frequency of both respiratory symptoms and reduced lung function.