Traffic Pollution Caused Asthma Among 350000 Kids in India

Henrietta Strickland
April 13, 2019

Of 194 countries analysed, the United Kingdom ranked 24th for the highest proportion of pollution-related asthma cases, above the USA (25th) and India (58th).

To see how traffic played a role in childhood asthma cases, the researchers gathered data on almost 200 countries and over 120 cities around the world.

Trigger Commenting on their findings, British expert Professor Stephen Holgate, of the University of Southampton, said: "It has always been known that outdoor air pollution can trigger worsening asthma, but only recently has it been linked to the causation of new asthma. Furthermore, these findings not only support the association of NO2 exposure with childhood asthma incidence, but also, because this pollutant serves as an important proxy for broader traffic related air pollutants, highlight that urgent intervention is necessary to protect the health of those most vulnerable in society: children, particularly those with pre-existing respiratory disease".

Lead study author Dr Ploy Achakulwisut, of George Washington University, said schemes like the ultra-low emission zone introduced in London were key to tackling the issue and improving the health of youngsters.

It is thought that pollution from traffic may damage airways, leading to inflammation and the development of asthma in children who are genetically predisposed to the condition.

The new study combined detailed NO2 pollution data with asthma incidence rates and population numbers.

Traffic emissions can contribute up to 80% of ambient nitrogen dioxide in cities.

The paper, "Global, national, and urban burdens of paediatric asthma incidence attributable to ambient NO2 pollution: estimates from global datasets", was published on April 10 in The Lancet Planetary Health. In the first study of its kind, they estimate that four million cases of childhood asthma worldwide are attributable to traffic pollution each year, accounting for 13 per cent of all cases.

By country, Kuwait has the highest per capita rate of new traffic-related asthma cases among the 194 nations analyzed, equivalent to 550 cases every 100,000 children per year, followed by United Arab Emirates (460/100,000) and Canada (450/100,000), according to the research. Although less than half the size of China's burden, India had the next largest number of cases (350,000) due to its large population of children.

The country with the highest national rate of childhood asthma attributed to traffic pollution is South Korea, with nearly a third of all new cases blamed on vehicles.

The UK ranked 24th worst out of 194 countries, with China 19th and the USA 25th. Numerous solutions aimed at cleaning up the air would not only prevent new cases of asthma and other serious health problems but they would also attenuate global warming, Anenberg said.

Of the ten cities with the highest proportion of traffic pollution-related asthma cases, eight were in China alongside Moscow, Russia, and Seoul, South Korea - all of which had high urban NO2 concentrations. Paris ranked 21st (33%), NY ranked 29th (32%), London 35th (29%), and New Delhi 38th (28%). This effort, along with more air pollution monitoring and epidemiological studies conducted in data-limited countries will help to refine the estimates of new asthma cases tied to traffic emissions, Anenberg and Achakulwisut added. They also found that about 92 per cent of the new paediatric asthma cases that were attributable to NO2 occurred in areas that already meet the World Health Organization guideline. "So we can be confident that traffic pollution has a significant effect on childhood asthma incidence".

This study was funded by George Washington University.

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