Toxic fumes emitted by vehicles on the roads are taking a toll on the kids across the world including India where at least 3,50,000 children fell to chronic respiratory disease, asthma. India is second only to China, as per a Lancet study that analysed 194 countries and 125 major cities worldwide.
Worldwide four million kids get asthma every year as a result of inhaling air pollution, said the study conducted by researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health. And an estimated 64 per cent of these new asthma cases occur in urban areas. The study based on the data between 2010 and 2015 is published in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.
The estimates suggested that there are 170 new cases of traffic pollution-related asthma per 100,000 children every year, while 13 per cent of childhood asthma cases diagnosed each year are linked to traffic pollution. India ranked second to China where the largest burdens related to air pollution was at 7,60,000 cases of asthma per year, while the United States had 2,40,000 kids falling to the chronic disease.
Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory condition of the lungs and airways — basically, when asthma is triggered, the symptoms make it difficult to breathe, which can be extremely dangerous and even lead to death if attacks are severe enough and go untreated.
With 92 per cent of cases developing in areas that have traffic pollution levels below the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline level, the researcher suggest that this limit may need to be reviewed.
“Nitrogen dioxide pollution appears to be a substantial risk factor for childhood asthma incidence in both developed and developing countries, especially in urban areas,” said senior author of the study, Susan C. Anenberg from George Washington University, US.
“Our findings suggest that the World Health Organization guideline for annual average NO2 concentrations might need to be revisited, and that traffic emissions should be a target to mitigate exposure,” Anenberg said in a statement.
“Improving access to cleaner forms of transportation, like electric public transport and active commuting by cycling and walking, would not only bring down NO2 levels, but would also reduce asthma, enhance physical fitness, and cut greenhouse gas emissions,” added Anenberg.
Our study indicates that policy initiatives to alleviate traffic-related air pollution can lead to improvements in children’s health and also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said lead author Ploy Achakulwisut from George Washington University.
The researchers used NO2 as a surrogate for the traffic pollution mixture to focus specifically on the effects of traffic pollution on childhood asthma development.
As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), 350 million people around the world suffer from asthma of which ten per cent are in India. The number is set to rise in view of rapid urbanization, changing life style and poor air-quality.