Pollution from Automobiles Contributes to Respiratory Disease in Children

Hospital admissions increase for children with respiratory illnesses due to particles emitted by vehicles, according to findings published in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association.

Hospital admissions increase for children with respiratory illnesses due to particles emitted by vehicles, according to findings published in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association.

Researchers from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology and the University of Seville examined data collected about particle contamination between 2007 and 2011 in order to determine the correlation between the contaminants and hospital admissions. The researchers measured concentrations of particles emitted by vehicles, measuring less than 2.5 microns; the particles are also known for causing bronchiolitis, pneumonia, asthma, and bronchitis in children. The particles enter the respiratory pathways easily, the researchers explained, especially in large urban areas with diesel vehicle populations.

The average daily values in Seville were about 17.3 micrograms/m3 compared to 19 μg/m3 in Madrid, or the 18 μg/m3 in cities across the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that cities not extend 10 μg/m3 as their daily average calues. There were more than 2,000 unscheduled hospital admissions for children with respiratory conditions aged 0 to 14 years during the observation period.

The researchers want to put pressure on the European Union to recommend that cities reduce the maximum allowed limits of PM2.5 particles from 25 µg/m3 to 20 µg/m3 by the year 2020. However, the researchers acknowledge that certain socioeconomic, genetic, and risk factor variables contribute to children’s hospital admission frequencies.

“We have calculated that a reduction in the average annual concentration of PM2.5 particles to meet the suggested WHO level of 10 μg/m3 would help to reduce hospital admissions of children due to respiratory conditions by 0.09 cases a year,” study researcher Rocío Román explained in a press release. He added that “at first glance, this may seem like a small figure, but we are talking about the most severe and critical cases for children’s health, given that these are the ones that end up being hospitalized, so their reduction is rated very highly.”

The researchers also noted that if the particle levels in the air were decreased to levels recommended by the WHO, the daily savings would be about 200 euros (about $230).

“It is not only necessary for the maximum limit values to be reduced to levels that are not harmful for human health and especially for children, who are much more vulnerable, but this awareness must be accompanied by an extension of PM2.5 measurements in different places in Spain and other countries,” Román concluded.