As many as 33 million hospital visits for asthma attacks worldwide every year could be linked to exposure to air pollution, a new NASA-funded global study has suggested.
Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the study has suggested that anywhere between nine and 23 million hospital visits per year may be linked to ozone, while a further five to 10 million could be linked to exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5).
The international research team working on the study included scientists from the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, the University of Colorado Boulder, NASA, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute as well as the University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute.
As part of the study, the researchers assessed epidemiological health impact functions combined with data describing population, baseline asthma incidence and prevalence, and pollutant concentrations.
The team also constructed a new dataset of national and regional hospital visit rates among people with asthma using published survey data.
According to researchers, which includes academics from the University of York, the study is the first of its kind to estimate the impact of air pollution on asthma cases across the globe.
Dr Johan Kuylenstierna, co-author and Policy Director or the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) at York, said: “This is the first global study of the potential impacts of air pollution on serious asthma attacks that cause people to visit emergency rooms in hospitals around the world.
“Previous research by SEI and others have emphasised the impacts of air pollution on the number of premature deaths, but many more people are affected by poor health, through impacts of non-fatal diseases.”
Chris Malley, co-author and SEI Research Fellow at the University of York, added: “SEI were co-investigators and helped to initiate the research, highlighting the possibilities of performing a global study, further quantifying the air pollution impacts on health.
“It’s important to note that this study shows the most severe cases of asthma, so the real impact from air pollution on asthma might be even higher.”
Susan C. Anenberg, lead author of the study and an Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, said: “Millions of people worldwide have to go to emergency rooms for asthma attacks every year because they are breathing dirty air.
“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.”