The use of biomass fuels in palm oil boilers produces pollutants into the air, such as particulate matter (PM). PM has been linked to many respiratory health symptoms in humans, especially children. This study aims to determine the exposure of PM10 and PM2.5 in the air and its association with respiratory symptoms and lung function implications among children in Semenyih, Selangor. A cross-sectional study was carried out among primary school children in Hulu Langat and Semenyih, Selangor. Eighty-six children from two primary schools in Hulu Langat were selected for the comparative group, while 50 children from two primary schools in Semenyih were selected for the study group. 30 and 32 houses were selected as study and comparative sites. A validated questionnaire from American Thoracic Society (ATS-DLD-78-C) was used to determine respondents' background, previous illnesses and respiratory symptoms. PM10 and PM2.5 were measured in schools and houses using the TSI DustTrak DRX Aerosol Monitor Model 8534 and Escort LC Personal Sampling Pump. A spirometer was used to obtain lung function status among children. Analysis showed high levels of PM10 and PM2.5 recorded in schools and houses of the study areas at p<0.05. The highest concentrations of PM10 (mean: 117.13 Ltg/m3) and PM25 (mean: 76.22 117.13 Ltg/m3) in a school were detected in S2, located 650m from the palm oil plant. High levels of PM10 (PR=14.24, 95% CI=4.17-48.53) and PM2.5 (PR=30.0, 95% CI=5.936-151.62) were found in houses in the study area (p<0.05). Significant levels of all respiratory health symptoms in schools were recorded at p<0.05 for cough (PR=2.90, 95% CI=1.24-6.80), phlegm (PR=9.72, 95% CI=2.61-36.16), wheezing (PR=6.30, 95% CI=2.11-18.81) and chest tightness (PR=8.74, 95% CI=2.33-32.77). High levels of PM10 were significantly associated with cough (p=0.013, PR=4.72, 95% CI=1.43-15.59) and wheezing (p=0.029, PR=4.83, 95% CI=1.18-19.80) in houses. Cough (p=0.02, PR=6.43, 95% CI=1.26-32.83) and phlegm (p=0.049, PR=7.75, 95% CI=0.87-68.77) symptoms were associated with the high exposure to PM2.5 in houses. Significant lung function abnormalities of FVC, FEV1 and FEV1/FVC were found among children in the study group (p<0.05). PM10 had significant inverse relationship with FVC% (p=0.018, r=-0.332) and FEV1% (p=0.001, r=-0.438) parameters, while PM2.5 had a significant inverse correlation with FEV1% (p=0.049, r=-0.042). Concentration of PM10 has been identified as a factor influencing the FVC (p=0.028, PR=1.02, 95% CI=1.002-1.038) and FEV1 (p=0.023, PR=1.018, 95% CI=1.002-1.035) lung function status after controlling all confounders. This study concludes that palm oil plants release large amounts of PM10 and PM2.5 into the air and have increased the risk of lung function abnormalities and respiratory illnesses among children who live near this industrial site.
- PM, PM, respiratory health symptoms
- lung function status