Children aged four and under are most at risk of asthma attacks from traffic-related air pollution, according to a researcher at The University of Western Australia.
Gavin Pereira, an epidemiologist and lecturer in UWA's School of Population Health, and his co-authors conducted a study to determine whether changes in background ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulates increased the risk of hospital emergency department presentations for asthma among children. The study was published today in the Medical Journal of Australia.
The team studied 603 babies, children and young adults aged less than one year to 19 years, who were exposed to background air pollution and presented with asthma at emergency departments from 2002 to 2006 in Perth.
Mr Pereira said children under four who had been exposed to the traffic-related pollutants nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide showed the most significant risk of presentation with asthma at an emergency department.
"The chance of a young child visiting an emergency department with asthma increased by as much as 70 per cent for a modest increase in traffic-related air pollution," he said.
"These results were surprising because they were observed for a period in which the national air quality standards were met, indicating that the effect may be due to the mixture of toxicants in vehicle emissions rather than the specific pollutants that were measured," Mr Pereira said.
"More research is needed to better understand the adverse health effects of this toxic mixture, particularly because it is our very young children who seem to be highly vulnerable."
Mr Pereira also works for the Cooperative Research Centre for Asthma and Airways, and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. The CRC is a Commonwealth Government funded initiative to support the development of new diagnostic tests and novel treatment for asthma and airways disease.
Gavin Pereira (UWA School of Population Health) (+61 8) 6488 8501 / (+61 4) 13 630 308
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 5563 / (+61 4) 32 637 716