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Impact of air pollution on asthma in Australia

30 Mar 2010
A new report examining the relationship between exposure to air pollution and asthma has been released (22 March 2010) by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Dr. Adrian Webster, the author of the report said that the study analysed the extent of the link between air pollution and asthma attacks. He revealed that 4 percent of about 3,500 hospitalisation cases involving newborns to 14-year-olds were linked to the volume of particulates in the air.

He explained that with regard to adults, they were only able to examine nitrogen dioxide as they couldn't resource the research needed to do it for particulates. They discovered that 3 percent were admitted to hospitals because of the nitrogen dioxide levels in the air.

The report is based on data gathered from Melbourne in 2006 and is restricted to two pollutants. Dr Webster said there are different pollutants that aggravate the symptoms of asthma which meant that it is likely that the total effect is worse than what the report suggests.

Associate Professor Bin Jalaludin from Liverpool Hospital, an expert in the effects of air pollution on respiratory diseases, said his research has determined that young children are particularly susceptible to high pollution days as there were more hospital admissions in most departments in Sydney among children, specifically those aged one to four.

The report has been produced as part of a broader asthma monitoring program, with the main interest assessing the contribution of air pollution to the burden of asthma in Australia.

‘While the method used for this case study requires refinement based on further research in this field, this type of method is crucial for estimating the health impacts of climate change and extreme events such as bushfires and dust storms,’ Dr Webster said.