According to a global study, vehicular pollution is causing almost four million children to suffer from asthma annually.In India, 350,000 children develop asthma due to noxious fumes from traffic.
“Childhood asthma prevalence in India has increased dramatically, especially in children who live near arterial roads. Several components of traffic emission, such as carbon and other particulate matter, ozone and carbon monoxide, can irritate and inflame the airways and lead to asthma in those with airway sensitivity, we need a deep-dive into the triggers for children in India,” Dr Arvind Kumar, chairman of the centre for chest surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, and founder-trustee of the Lung Care Foundation, which works on lung health and asthma prevention in 25 Delhi schools, told a news portal.
Among 194 countries India ranked number 58 when it comes to traffic pollution-attributable childhood asthma. However, South Korea is the country that is most affected as 31 per cent of children are infected by these noxious vehicular emissions. The following is how some of the world's major countries ranked in the report. China - 19, United Kingdom (UK)- 24, and the United States (US) - 25.
Researchers found a big difference in the proportion of cases attributable to traffic emissions across various cities. The findings showed the variation ranged from 6% in Orlu to 48% in Shanghai, China. Eight out of 10 cities with the highest proportion of cases were in China. Moscow in Russia and Seoul in South Korea were also on that list.
To assess traffic pollution across the globe, the team used nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels to determine the numbers. Road traffic, produced largely by diesel, accounts for up to 80% of ambient NO2 in most of the urban cities. The team noted it also accounts for 13 per cent of childhood asthma cases due to traffic pollution.
The data from the study shows 92% of cases are occurring in areas that have traffic pollution levels below WHO guidelines of 40ug/m3 (21 parts per billion). “NO2 levels may not be high all the time but during winter at high traffic zones and around power plants, it occasionally breaches the standard. NO2 levels are important because it reacts with volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight and forms Ozone (O3), which affects both asthmatics and healthy people. It is gradually developing into a problem in India,” SN Tripathi, a professor at the Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering at IIT-Kanpur, told a news portal.
Across the globe, asthma is the most commonly reported non-communicable disease in children. Researchers hope the findings bring about change to reduce the number of children affected by this type of pollution.Policy initiatives that lower traffic-related pollution could make a huge difference and reduce greenhouse emissions.
The report's findings were originally published in The Lancet Planetary Health.