Large study links short-term exposure to air pollution to lung infections in children
Researchers in the USA have found that children could be at a higher risk of lung infections after brief increases in air pollution.
The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, was carried out in an area in Utah in which levels of air pollution regularly go up and down. It focused on PM2.5, a common type of air pollutant emitted by diesel vehicles and the burning of fuels, which can have a range of negative health effects.
Scientists studied the health records of 146,937 people who were treated for acute lower respiratory infections (lung infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis and bronchiolitis) between 1999 and 2016. The majority – 77% – of these were under 2 years of age. The researchers also looked at data from nearby air quality measuring sites. When the two bits of information were put together they saw that rates of hospital visits for lung infections would go up just after periods of high pollution.
Further research is needed to understand these findings. However, at this stage, the researchers recommend taking steps to both reduce exposure to air pollution to help prevent lung infections.
The Healthy Lungs for Life campaign focuses on the importance of having air that is free from pollution, passive smoke, dangerous gases and other toxins that can affect the airways.