Air pollution is a well-known contributor to asthma. Air toxics are hazardous air pollutants that cause or may cause serious health effects. Although individual air toxics have been associated with asthma, only a limited number of studies have specifically examined combinations of air toxics associated with the disease. We geocoded air toxic levels from the US National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) to residential locations for participants of our AiRway in Asthma (ARIA) study. We then applied Data-driven ExposurE Profile extraction (DEEP), a machine learning–based method, to discover combinations of early-life air toxics associated with current use of daily asthma controller medication, lifetime emergency department visit for asthma, and lifetime overnight hospitalization for asthma. We discovered 20 multi–air toxic combinations and 18 single air toxics associated with at least 1 outcome. The multi–air toxic combinations included those containing acrylic acid, ethylidene dichloride, and hydroquinone, and they were significantly associated with asthma outcomes. Several air toxic members of the combinations would not have been identified by single air toxic analyses, supporting the use of machine learning–based methods designed to detect combinatorial effects. Our findings provide knowledge about air toxic combinations associated with childhood asthma.


Yan-Chak Li, Hsiao-Hsien Leon Hsu, Yoojin Chun, Po-Hsiang Chiu, Zoe Arditi, Luz Claudio, Gaurav Pandey, Supinda Bunyavanich


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