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Dirty air takes breath away

Date July 22, 2012 2 reading now

Deborah Gough

POLLUTION is giving otherwise healthy children asthma-like symptoms, potentially affecting their lung growth and function and casting doubt on whether national air quality standards are strong enough.

A national study of 2860 primary school children found nitrogen dioxide, contained in motor vehicle exhaust, was present in the lungs of two-thirds of the students of the 55 schools tested. In cases where NO2 was found, children experienced ”asthma-like” symptoms, including wheezing. Their lung volume was reduced and their airways inflamed.

Researchers concluded NO2 exposure was not producing typical asthma but a non-specific lung effect that did not improve with asthma medication.

The study also found airborne fine particles of soot had an impact on children’s lung function and airways.

The National Environment Protection Council commissioned the Australian Child Health and Air Pollution Study. Air pollution has a greater impact on children than adults, the report said. ”Although air pollution levels are relatively low in most regions of Australia, they may not be low enough to prevent adverse health effects,” the report warned.

The Asthma Foundation NSW chief executive, Michele Goldman, said Australia’s air monitoring was 10 years behind the rest of the world despite compelling evidence of harm.

“Studies have shown that children constantly exposed to cigarette smoke or traffic fumes are three times more likely to develop asthma,” she said.

with Sarah Whyte

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