A new study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives reports air pollution to be held guilty for upto 33 million emergency room visits for asthma attacks across the globe annually.
The study led by researchers at George Washington University is the first to quantify the global burden of asthma caused by unhealthy air. Ambient air pollution exacerbates asthma among populations around the world and may also contribute to new-onset asthma.
Anenberg and associates aimed to estimate the number of asthma emergency room visits and new-onset asthma cases globally attributable to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), ozone, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations.
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“Millions of people worldwide have to go to emergency rooms for asthma attacks every year because they are breathing dirty air,” said Susan C. Anenberg, Ph.D., MS, lead author of the study. “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.”
The investigating team first looked at emergency room visits for asthma in 54 countries and Hong Kong, and then combined that information with epidemiological exposure-response relationships and global pollution levels derived from satellites orbiting the earth. To estimate the global levels of pollution for this study, the researchers turned to atmospheric models, ground monitors and satellites equipped with remote-sensing devices.
The key findings of the research suggest that:
- 9 to 23 million annual asthma emergency room visits globally (8 to 20 percent of total global asthma ER visits) may be triggered by ozone, a pollutant generated when a car, power plant and other types of emissions interact with sunlight.
- 5 to 10 million asthma emergency room visits every year (4 to 9 percent of total global asthma ER visits) were linked to fine particulate matter, small particles of pollution that can lodge deep in the lung’s airway tubes.
- About half of the asthma emergency room visits attributed to dirty air were estimated to occur in South and East Asian countries, notably India and China.
- Although the air in the United States is relatively clean compared to South and East Asian countries, ozone and particulate matter were estimated to contribute 8 to 21 percent and 3 to 11 percent of asthma ER visits in the United States, respectively.
“We know that air pollution is the leading environmental health risk factor globally,” Anenberg said. “Our results show that the range of global public health impacts from breathing dirty air is even more far-reaching–and include millions of asthma attacks every year.”
Approximately 358 million people worldwide were estimated to have had asthma in 2015 (GBD 2015 Chronic Respiratory Disease Collaborators 2017), including about 14% of the world’s children. Asthma prevalence is considered the fourth leading cause of years lived with disability (YLDs) for children ages 5–14 globally, and the 16th leading cause of YLDs for all ages.
For reference log on to https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP3766
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