Clean air improves respiratory health of children and avoids other problems in adulthood.
Air pollution affects the health of the entire population, but children are among the most vulnerable groups to the negative impacts. And that is because their lungs are still developing and due to other behavior-related factors, such as the fact that they spend more time exercising outdoors. But what if we saw it from a different perspective?
If children are especially sensitive to polluted air, does this also mean they can get a special benefit from clean air? A recently published study on the state of air points to yes. This study, which has involved hundreds of children in the state of California, shows that children who breathe cleaner air have better lung function than those who breathe contaminated air.
This is the conclusion of an article that Gauderman, W. James and other researchers have recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine. In this article, the decline in the levels of carbon dioxide and particles smaller than 10 and 2.5 microns is associated to the improved lung-function development in children with and without asthma.
Their study, which included the participation of 2,120 children between 11 and 15 years of age over a period of four years in five communities in southern California, confirms the positive effects of clean air on the health of children.
In the five communities, there were clinically and statistically significant improvements of both FEV (forced expiratory volume) and FVC (forced vital capacity) observed during this period. This was associated with decreased levels of nitrogen dioxide and particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 and 10 microns resulting mainly from the combustion of fuel and, therefore, with a higher prevalence in urban areas.
However, although the decline in lung capacity in children is associated with an increased risk of asthma in children, the negative effects of air pollution on children’s lungs can have long-term effects that go over the course of lifetime; in adults, there is a direct association between a lower than expected lung-function and a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and mortality rate. Therefore, not only protecting the child from pollution will be beneficial throughout their childhood and adolescence but the consequences will reach all their entire life.
This study, along with others, indicates that improved air quality can be beneficial to public health, and that there are significant health benefits in both children and adults associated with improvements in air quality even when pollution levels are within a range previously thought to be safe.
W. James Gauderman, et al. Association of Improved Air Quality with Lung Development in Children. N Engl J Med 2015; 372:905-913March 5, 2015DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1414123