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Air pollution causes 4 million deaths per year and restricts children’s lung growth

The world is going urban. More and more people are moving to the cities and in the near future this trend is not going to stop. These giant cities open a lot of opportunities, but they have some serious disadvantages in terms of being places to live. One of the biggest ones is air pollution. Scientists from the Queen Mary University of London, King’s College London and the University of Edinburgh found that air pollution restricts children’s lung growth.

Air pollution causes huge health problems and even deaths, but it is hard to introduce regulations against it. Image credit: Saperaud via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Various regulations and laws are being put in place to combat air pollution and reduce its effects on people’s health. However, low emission zones in a number of cities are simply not very effective ways to make a big impact. This new study, based on samples in London’s Low Emission Zone, shows that lung problems persisted despite small improvements in air quality. This means that in order to make an actual difference, measures should be more extreme.

This study took 5 years and monitored more than 2000 eight and nine-year olds from places in London that do not meet current EU nitrogen dioxide regulations. Scientists wanted to see how the introduction of the London’s Low Emission Zone changed children’s health and exposure to pollutants. Results are rather worrying. Researchers found that air pollution could cause children to have small lungs. This is likely due to emissions associated with diesel engines, such as nitrogen dioxide pollution. Although new methods of lowering emissions and improving air quality seemed to have an effect in terms of how clean the air is, the proportion of children with small lungs or asthma symptoms largely remained the same. These are quite worrying news, because breathing disorders, asthma, chest infections and various other health conditions are largely caused by air pollution.

It is estimated that air pollution causes more than four million people deaths each year. Of course, growing and developing children are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. Professor Aziz Sheikh, one of the authors of the study, said: “Air pollution is one of the leading causes of death and disability in Scotland. This study provides further evidence that air pollution is affecting our children’s lung health development – with likely lifelong consequences. Our findings suggest that Low Emission Zones and related attempts to improve air quality will need to be ramped up in order for health benefits to be seen”.

Policy makers have to make more drastic decisions when it comes to regulating air pollution. It is time to make necessary actions in order to save lives. But if you want to take care of yourself, the simplest thing to do would be to move out of the city.

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