Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:31 pm

According to a new study, about four million children worldwide develop asthma each year because of inhaling nitrogen dioxide air pollution

Based on data from 2010 to 2015, researchers estimate that 64 percent of these new cases of asthma occur in urban areas.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease that makes it hard to breathe and results when the lung’s airways are inflamed.

An estimated 235 million people worldwide currently have asthma, which can cause wheezing as well as life-threatening attacks.

How millions of new cases of asthma could be prevented

“Our findings suggest that millions of new cases of paediatric asthma could be prevented in cities around the world by reducing air pollution,” says Susan C. Anenberg, PhD, the senior author of the study and an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH).

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“Improving access to cleaner forms of transportation, like electrified public transport and active commuting by cycling and walking, would not only bring down NO2 levels, but would also reduce asthma, enhance physical fitness, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

How to cut in-car air pollution

The study looked at 194 countries and 125 major cities

The researchers linked global datasets of NO2 concentrations, paediatric population distributions, and asthma incidence rates with epidemiological evidence relating traffic-derived NO2 pollution with asthma development in kids.

They were then able to estimate the number of new paediatric asthma cases attributable to NO2 pollution in 194 countries and 125 major cities worldwide.

Key findings from the study published in The Lancet Planetary Health:

  • An estimated four million children developed asthma each year from 2010 to 2015 due to exposure to NO2 pollution, which primarily comes from motor vehicle exhaust.
  • An estimated 13 percent of annual paediatric asthma incidence worldwide was linked to NO2 pollution.
  • Among the 125 cities, NO2 accounted for 6 percent (Orlu, Nigeria) to 48 percent (Shanghai, China) of paediatric asthma incidence. NO2‘s contribution exceeded 20 percent in 92 cities located in both developed and emerging economies.
  • The top 10 highest NO2 contributions were estimated for eight cities in China (37 to 48 percent of pediatric asthma incidence) and for Moscow, Russia and Seoul, South Korea at 40 percent.

Study: Air pollution linked to intellectual disabilities in children

WHO: Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health

The World Health Organisation calls air pollution “a major environmental risk to health” and has established Air Quality Guidelines for NO2 and other air pollutants.

The researchers estimate that most children lived in areas below the current WHO guideline of 21 parts per billion for annual average NO2. They also found that about 92 percent of the new paediatric asthma cases that were attributable to NO2 occurred in areas that already meet the WHO guideline.

“That finding suggests that the WHO guideline for NO2 may need to be re-evaluated to make sure it is sufficiently protective of children’s health,” said Pattanun Achakulwisut, PhD, lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral scientist at Milken Institute SPH.

Clean the air to prevent asthma and global warming

The researchers found that in general, cities with high NO2 concentrations also had high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Many of the 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, says Anenberg.

Air pollution killing more people than smoking – Study

Source: George Washington University via

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