Traffic pollution linked to 2 million childhood asthma cases

Nearly 2 million children worldwide develop asthma as a result of breathing in traffic-related pollution, according to a new study.

Researchers at George Washington University studied concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) related to traffic and tracked new cases of asthma in children from 2000 – 2019. 

They found that out of the estimated 1.85 million new asthma cases attributed to NO2, two-thirds of these occurred in urban areas.

Interestingly they also found that the fraction of asthma cases in urban areas has dropped recently, from 20% in 2000 to 16% in 2019. They say this is probably due to tougher clean air regulations in higher-income countries like the U.S. 

However, the researchers highlighted that air pollution has been rising in South Asia, Sub0Saharan Africa, and the Middle East and therefore much more needs to be done to continue to curb harmful emissions. 

woman with blue backpack on street full of fallen leaves

Susan Anenberg, a co-lead author said: ‘Our study found that nitrogen dioxide puts children at risk of developing asthma and the problem is especially acute in urban areas.

‘The findings suggest that clean air must be a critical part of strategies aimed at keeping children healthy.

‘Reducing fossil fuel-powered transportation can help children and adults breathe easier and may pay big health dividends, such as fewer cases of pediatric asthma and excess deaths. At the same time, it would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, leading to a healthier climate.’

In related news, a recent study found that children experiencing social disadvantage in their first few years of life have a greatly increased risk of asthma persisting into adulthood, a study has found.



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Morris Charney
Morris Charney
2 years ago

Those living in the suburbs commuting by car should pay attention. The highest C02 readings will be inside the car while in traffic. Travelling by car with the kids is unhealthy. You can’t achieve fresh air changes while moving in traffic.

Andrew Lohmann
Andrew Lohmann
2 years ago

That sounds like a lot lower figure than the 1-2 million in the UK alone perhaps 20 years ago.

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