Heavy toll: New research from the UK has revealed an alarming increase in asthmatic episodes corresponding to diesel-linked air pollution | Photo: The Weather Channel

Diesel-linked air pollution causing spike in child asthma cases, visits to doctor: Study

A new UK study revealed just a week of raised diesel-related air pollution leads to a huge increase in the number of visits to doctors by children suffering from asthma. The number of inhaler prescriptions also increases significantly, researchers said based on clinical data.

The research was conducted in south London over five years and more than 750,000 respiratory consultations at GPs and inhaler prescriptions were analysed for the study. The worst hit are children, but there were increases in GP consultations and inhaler prescriptions for people of all ages. The researchers called for action to cut air pollution and said pollution warnings could be used to help those at risk to prepare for episodes of increased dirty air. 

The authors, however, said the figures were a substantial underestimate of the actual numbers. This is because GP data was only available from Monday to Friday and during surgery hours, so consultations at weekends or in the evenings were not included in the data.

Air pollution from farms leads to 17,900 US deaths per year: Study 

A first-of-its-kind study revealed that air pollution from agricultural activities, including animal farming, cause more than 17,000 annual deaths across the United States. According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, animal agriculture was responsible for 80% of deaths from pollution related to food production. Researchers said gases associated with manure and animal feed produce small, lung-irritating particles. 

Scientists said primary particulate matter PM2.5 produced when farmers till fields or burn crops before harvest cause around 4,800 premature deaths a year, but “secondary” particulate matter, especially ammonia released by manure and fertiliser, contribute to about 12,400 deaths a year. Scientists said many beef, pork and dairy facilities store animal waste in massive “lagoons” that release huge amounts of ammonia. 

Wood burnt in fireplaces and stoves cause of bigger air pollution than traffic: UK study 

Fireplaces and stoves are the largest single source of primary particle pollution (PM2.5)  in the UK, even greater than traffic and industry, a recent study found. According to government estimates, wood burning in the UK has increased since 2005, which has offset gains from other sectors, including cleaning up vehicular pollution.

Scientists said about 40% of the UK’s primary particle pollution comes from just 7% of homes that burn solid fuel. In Dublin, where burning of coal is banned, the marketing of wood and peat as green biofuels has contributed to solid-fuel heating remaining the biggest source of particle pollution in the city. Several local councils in London have asked people not to heat their homes with solid fuels. 

Trump era rule that weakened air pollution regulations scrapped

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scrapped the Trump-era Benefit-Cost rule because it was harming public health and hindering clean air rules. Trump had imposed the rule mainly in reaction to the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule that had been adopted during President Obama’s administration. MATS accounted for indirect benefits of installing mercury pollution-control equipment at coal plants that reduced deadly emissions of particulate matter, Reuters reported. The Benefit-Cost Rule had argued that the cost of compliance with MATS far outweighed the direct public health benefits of slashing mercury emissions alone.

Children’s learning ability improves by 6% if air pollution is reduced around schools?

Research by the University of Manchester found that a 20% reduction in air pollution levels in and around school grounds can improve a child’s learning ability by 6.1%. This is equivalent to four extra weeks of learning time per year, scientists said.

The author of the study Professor Martie van Tongeren, said the evidence indicates that the outdoor and indoor pollution impacts children’s cognitive development, which may affect educational attainment. Researchers point out that up to 2,000 schools and nurseries are close to roads with levels of air pollution above the baseline level used in the model, which includes at least 500,000 children exposed to damaging levels of pollution.

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