A third of new childhood asthma cases could be avoided. Photo: © Shutterstock – Yuliya Evstratenko

Thousands of childhood asthma cases preventable by tackling air pollution

If the 18 countries covered by a recent study were to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline for PM2.5, 67,000 new cases of childhood asthma, accounting for 11 per cent of new diagnoses, could be prevented every year.

Even greater effects were found when the scientists set air pollution levels to the lowest ever values reported in studies – a sort of “background level”, which were recorded in Germany for PM2.5 and in Norway for NO2. The estimates suggest a third of new childhood asthma cases – around 190,000 a year – would be prevented if PM2.5 fell to such levels across the 18 countries, and 23 per cent of cases would be prevented if NO2 was reduced to its lowest recorded levels.

The current WHO guideline for PM2.5, which was adopted in 2007, is set at 10 μg/m3 as an annual mean, whereas the EU’s limit value is set much higher, at 25 μg/m3.

The 18 European countries covered in the study are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Sources: Air Quality News and the Guardian, 8 August 2019.


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