Poisonous air threatens 4 million children a year with asthma

File Reuters

UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Exposure to nitrogen dioxide, emitted mainly from land transport, is a real risk factor for asthma in children, a new study shows.

Researchers estimate that 4 million new cases of asthma worldwide in children worldwide can be attributed to air pollution with nitrogen dioxide, accounting for 13 percent of all asthma cases diagnosed every year in children.

“Our study suggests that political initiatives to reduce traffic air pollution can lead to improvements in children’s health, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. Bloi Achakulwisut of George Washington University in the United States.

Traffic pollution is believed to cause damage to the airways, leading to inflammation and the development of asthma in children who are genetically predisposed to the disease.

Traffic emissions can contribute up to 80% of the city-wide nitrogen dioxide, and previous studies say exposure to nitrous oxide is essential in asthma.

The researchers used global data from 194 countries on the concentration of nitrogen dioxide and asthma rates to estimate the number of new cases in children between the ages of one and 18 years that could be associated with traffic pollution.

“Nitrogen pollution appears to be a major risk factor for asthma in children in both developed and developing countries, especially in urban areas,” said Dr. Susan Annenberg of George Washington University.

“Our findings suggest that the WHO guideline on the average annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide may need to be reconsidered,” Annenberg said.

“Air pollution is not visible, so it’s easy to ignore, but studies like this show that toxic air is an urgent threat and we need to move,” said Dr. Benny Woods, chief executive of Lung Foundation.

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