Purpose: This study was carried out in the framework of a health monitoring system set up in the vicinity of a 1400 MW coal-fired power plant in Israel.
Methods: Second, fifth and eighth grade schoolchildren were followed up every three years; they performed pulmonary function tests (PFT) and their parents filled out ATS-NHLI health questionnaires.
A subgroup of children living near an industrial zone was studied separately and compared with children from another relatively clean part of the town.
Results: Children growing up in the vicinity of the industrial zone showed a higher prevalence of almost all respiratory symptoms compared with children residing in the unpolluted part of the town. Part of the symptoms, such as 1. sputum with cold, 2. sputum without cold and 3. cough accompanied by sputum were significantly more common among the schoolchildren from the industrialized zone; their prevalences being: 1. 27.3% in the industrialized compared with 12.5% in the cleaner area, 2. 12.7% compared with 2.5% and 3. 18.2% compared with 6.3%, respectively.
No significant differences could be shown for the prevalence of respiratory diseases among the children from the two zones; asthma was more common among children from the industrial zone but the difference was not statistically significant. No consistent trend of reduced pulmonary function tests could be shown for the four subgroups of studied children (e.g. boys and girls from fifth and eighth class).
Conclusions: Children residing in the vicinity of the industrialized zone had significantly more respiratory symptoms compared with children from a cleaner part of the town. No permanent physiological changes were obvious.