A study carried out in the West Yorkshire city of Bradford has suggested that up to 38% of all childhood asthma cases in the city could be linked to air pollution, with traffic-related pollution linked to 24% of these cases.
Led by researchers at the University of Leeds â€“ the study used a model to assess the impact exposure to nitrogen oxides, including traffic, emissions, atmospheric dispersion and health impact assessments in Bradford.
Study lead author Dr Haneen Khreis carried out this research while at the Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds.
Published yesterday (27 March) in the Environment International journal, the researchers study used models which charted how much air pollution is present in the city, and how much of that can be traced to road traffic.
The initial estimates of the model suggested that 12% of the annual childhood asthma cases would be attributable to traffic related air pollution. However, the team believed the model was underestimating the traffic-related fraction of air pollution.
After adjusting the results using actual measurements of air pollutants, it showed that up to 24% of the annual cases may be attributable to traffic-related air pollution.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Khreis said: â€œOverall rates of childhood asthma cases in Bradford are higher than the national average, as were emergency hospital admissions for asthmatic children under 16. Traffic-related air pollution is a real concern to the community.”
â€œWhile popular initiatives such as stopping vehicles from idling outside schools or providing walking routes away from roads are important, solutions to mitigate traffic pollution shouldnâ€™t be restricted to localised areas.”
â€œOur teamâ€™s previous research has shown that children exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution have a higher risk of developing asthma. Quantifying the number of childhood asthma cases that are directly attributable to traffic-related air pollution has not been done in the past and, as we show now, a significant portion of cases is largely preventable.â€
She added: â€œOur work demonstrates that while popular initiatives such as stopping vehicles from idling outside schools or providing walking routes away from roads are important, proposed solutions to mitigate traffic pollution shouldnâ€™t be restricted to localised areas.
â€œNew policies aimed at reducing the effects of traffic-related air pollution need to target each link in the full chain of events â€“ from traffic volume and type, to exhaust and non-exhaust emissions, to dispersion to exposure.â€
The teamâ€™s research is part of ongoing work in Bradford assessing emissions and air quality profile in the region and the associated childhood health effects and impacts on the community.