World Environment TV
|Air Pollution Sending Children To Hospital||| Print ||
The AIHW report confirms the link between asthma and air pollution, particularly among infants and children (ABC News: Giulio Saggin). Air pollution accounts for at least 4 per cent of hospitalizations of babies and children, a new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report estimates. The report's author, Dr Adrian Webster, says the study examines the extent of the link between air pollution and asthma attacks. "Four per cent of around 3,500 hospitalizations of [newborns] to 14-year-olds were related to the amount of particulates in the air," he said.
"This is an estimate based on the methodology we've developed. "In relation to adults we only looked at nitrogen dioxide [as] unfortunately we couldn't resource the research required to do it for particulates. "We found about 3 per cent ... [were] hospitalized due to nitrogen dioxide levels in the air." The report is based on data from Melbourne in 2006 and is limited to two pollutants. Dr Webster says there are several other pollutants that exacerbate asthma symptoms, so it is likely the total effect is worse than the report suggests.
"We are breaking air pollution in total down to its component parts, so the overall impact of air pollution is likely to be much greater than that," he said. "But unfortunately we weren't able to look at the total picture because of a lack of research in the area." Associate Professor Bin Jalaludin from Liverpool Hospital, who specializes in the effects of air pollution on respiratory illness, says his research has found that young children are especially vulnerable on high pollution days. "On high pollution days there are more admittances in most departments in Sydney for children, especially aged one to four," he said. "articulate matter we found an increase of about 1.3 per cent, for nitrogen dioxide about 3 per cent and for ozone about 1 per cent."
Setting the standard
The AIHW report has attempted to devise a standardized method of measuring the effects of pollution on asthma sufferers. Dr Webster says similar studies have been conducted but the results have not been consistent. National Asthma Campaign representative and associate professor of the John Hunter Hospital, Peter Walk, says the current system is inadequate. "There is a lack of standardization for measuring air quality ... the requirements to report the results really don't exist in Australia and those standards requirements vary enormously," he said.
"So we really have what could be a potentially very important public health issue, but there isn't a standardized way of measuring this or looking at the outcomes for individuals." Professor Jalaludin agrees, saying a standardized measure would allow policy-makers to better understand the effects of air pollution and come up with ways to improve health and reduce health costs. "It may tell us the number of deaths ... hospitalization ... and emergency department visits we might be able to avoid if we reduce air pollution," he said. "We could work out how much money we might be able to save if we are able to avoid some health affects, or if we can avoid deaths due to air pollution."