AIR pollution, caused by cars and other pollutants, has long been linked to asthma attacks. A new study, conducted at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA, made use of atmospheric models, ground monitors, and satellites to further investigate this link between air pollution and asthma.
Approximately 358 million people are affected by asthma across the globe, with exposure to ozone and fine particulate matter pollution responsible for 9–33 million asthma-related emergency department visits. Breaking down hospital visits, the researchers compared data from 54 countries and Hong Kong. The data showed that 9–23 million hospitalisations were caused by ozone exposure (8–23% cases) while 5–10 million (4–9%) were triggered by fine particulate matter pollution exposure.
In total, approximately half of all emergency department visits occurred in South and East Asian countries, in particular India and China. The study authors suggested that the lack of strict regulations on factory pollution and a denser population left the Indian and Chinese populations at increased risk. Analysing data from the USA revealed that ‘cleaner’ air in more developed nations still gave rise to a significant number of emergency department visits: ozone and fine particulate matter pollution gave rise to up to 21% and 11% of visits, respectively, in the USA. Combining satellite and registry data revealed that around 95% of the world’s population live in places with unsafe air.
The research team called for policymakers to target sources of ozone, fine particulate matter pollution, nitrogen dioxide, and especially car emissions. “Our findings suggest that policies aimed at cleaning up the air can reduce the global burden of asthma and improve respiratory health around the world,” summarised study lead Asc Prof Susan C. Anenberg, George Washington University.