About 4 million children worldwide develop asthma each year because of inhaling nitrogen dioxide air pollution, according to a study published today by researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH). The study, based on data from 2010 to 2015, estimates that 64 percent of these new cases of asthma occur in urban areas.
The study is the first to quantify the worldwide burden of new pediatric asthma cases linked to traffic-related nitrogen dioxide by using a method that takes into account high exposures to this pollutant that occur near busy roads, said Susan C. Anenberg, PhD, the senior author of the study and an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute SPH.
“Our findings suggest that millions of new cases of pediatric asthma could be prevented in cities around the world by reducing air pollution,” said Anenberg. “Improving access to cleaner forms of transportation, like electrified 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.”
The researchers linked global datasets of NO2 concentrations, pediatric population distributions, and asthma incidence rates with epidemiological evidence relating traffic-derived NO2 pollution with asthma development in kids. They were then able to estimate the number of new pediatric asthma cases attributable to NO2 pollution in 194 countries and 125 major cities worldwide.