Traffic-related pollution adding to asthma burden worldwide

China accounted for the largest number of cases of traffic pollution-related asthma, followed by India, US, Indonesia and Brazil

Published: Thursday 25 April 2019

Asthma is considered to be the most common chronic disease among children across the world. The economic costs associated with asthma exceed those of Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS combined.

According to a new study, traffic-related pollution is adding to the asthma burden globally. The Lancet study, released on April 11, suggests that there are 170 new cases of traffic pollution-related asthma per 100,000 children every year; and 13 per cent of childhood asthma cases diagnosed each year are linked to traffic-related pollution.

 The study analysed 194 countries and 125 major cities worldwide. It says that more than one in 10 childhood asthma cases could be linked to traffic-related air pollution every year. India has an estimated 1.5-2 crore asthma patients, out of which 3,50,000 are children.

The researchers used Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) as a substitute for the traffic pollution mixture to focus specifically on the effects of traffic pollution on childhood asthma development.

NO2 is a pollutant formed mainly from fossil fuel combustion. Traffic-related emissions can contribute up to 80 per cent of ambient NO2 in cities. NO2 is just one component made up of many pollutants, including ozone and carbon monoxide — which are known to have numerous adverse effects on health.

China accounted for the largest number of cases of traffic pollution-related asthma — 7,60,000 cases — followed by India, US, Indonesia and Brazil.

With 92 per cent of cases developing in areas that have traffic pollution levels below the World Health Organization-mandated levels, the study suggests that this limit needs to be reviewed.

Lead author, Ploy Achakulwisut from George Washington University hopes that this study can bring in major policy changes related to air pollution, which can lead to improvements in children’s health and also reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

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