Air pollution is linked to childhood pneumonia

Air pollution is associated with 2 million additional pneumonia cases in children under 5 in South Asia, according to a new study led by Stanford University. 

The researchers analysed data on particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution alongside community health surveillance data in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  

They found that pneumonia incidence among children under 5 increased by 3.2% for every 10µg/m3 increase in PM2.5 pollution. 

The mean PM2.5 level in Dhaka was on average over three times higher than the World Health Organization standard. The researchers have therefore suggested that the association between air pollution and child pneumonia suggests that air pollution is a major contributor to the leading cause of child death in Bangladesh and across South Asia.

These findings are also approximately double that of prior estimates of pneumonia hospitalisations associated with increased PM2.5.

selective focus photography of anatomy lungs

The researchers have said that the difference from previous findings may reflect the young age of the study population – most children in the study were two or younger.

Allison Sherris, a postdoctoral research fellow in Earth system science at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences said: ‘Everybody wants to protect kids’ health. Now, we have evidence of a clear health benefit to children from reducing ambient PM2.5 emissions in Dhaka.”

‘Specifying the impact of industry-generated air pollution on child health provides compelling evidence to support interventions to reduce pollution.

‘This is often more salient to politicians than the marginal contribution of emissions to global climate change. We’re still only looking at a small slice of the potential health outcomes that might be linked to this kind of air pollution, and we still lack perfect measurements of exposure to it. The true health burden is likely much greater.’

Photo by Robina Weermeijer


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