Young children more vulnerable to air pollution, study shows

A study of more than 4,000 Dutch infants has concluded that young children who live close to busy roads are more at risk of developing respiratory diseases such as asthma.

The study was conducted by an international team of researchers and traces the health of 4,146 youngsters before birth to the age of four. Data for the study was compiled from blood tests and from health questionnaires completed by parents. Subjects hailed from 40 different areas in the Netherlands, and researchers measured varying levels of exposure to nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter (also known as PM 2.5) and soot from diesel emissions.

For those children living close to busy roads, the study shows an average of 20% to 30% increased likelihood of asthma, wheezing, ear, nose and throat infections, colds and flu.

Researchers also found that children with the highest levels of pollutant exposure demonstrated hypersensitivity to food allergens, although a connection with food allergies at a later age remains inconclusive. A separate study on the issue is to be conducted when the children reach the age of eight. 

Hailed as a “major contribution” to research in the field by Michael Jerrett, associate professor in Public Health at the University of California, the study is to be published in forthcoming issue of the European Respiratory Journal.

In September 2005, the European Commission adopted a ‘Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution’. The strategy includes a proposal for a Directive on ambient air quality that foresees significant reductions in emissions of nitrous oxides and particulate matter (PM 2.5) by 2020 (EURACTIV 24/10/06). The air-quality Directive is linked to upcoming ‘Euro 5’ vehicle-emissions standards (see related LinksDossier).   

 

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