Reducing air pollution could substantially reduce childhood asthma
Many childhood asthma cases could be prevented by reducing outdoor air pollution, a new study in the European Respiratory Journal has shown.
Air pollution includes substances such as particulate matter (tiny particles that damage the lungs when they are breathed in), smoke and dangerous gases. Air pollution comes from lots of different sources, including car engine fumes and burning coal and oil for energy.
This study investigated whether reducing air pollution could help prevent childhood asthma in 18 European countries. The researchers looked at what would happen if these countries reduced their air pollution to the guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO). They estimated this could prevent more than 66,500 cases of childhood asthma a year. This makes up 11% of all cases across the 18 countries.
They then looked at the effect of reducing air pollution even further, to the lowest levels that have been recorded in recent studies. They found this could prevent nearly 192,000 cases of childhood asthma a year, which is 33% of all cases. In some countries where air pollution levels are higher, such as Hungary, reducing air pollution could prevent up to 43% of childhood asthma cases.
This study helps researchers understand how air pollution affects children’s health. It suggests that a large number of childhood asthma cases could be prevented if air quality was improved across Europe. It also suggests that decision-makers should aim to reduce air pollution as much as possible (rather than just to guideline levels) to protect more children from childhood asthma.