Air pollution and asthma
It is well understood that air pollutants often act as a trigger to make people’s asthma symptoms worse.
In 1995 the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) concluded that ‘exposure to ambient concentrations of air pollutants is associated with an increase in exacerbations of asthma in those who already have the condition’, and more recent evidence has only served to confirm this.
Asthma UK, partners of the Healthy Air Campaign, say this: “Two-thirds of people with asthma tell us that traffic fumes make their asthma worse and 42% find that traffic fumes discourage them from walking or shopping in congested areas. And 85% of people with asthma tell us they are concerned about the effect that increasing vehicle fumes will have on their and their family’s health in the future.”
However, the question of whether air pollution causes asthma is still open for debate. There is some strong evidence to suggest causation. Asthma UK believe that pollution plays a role in causing asthma in children and adults, as well as being a trigger that can make people’s asthma symptoms worse. The Aphekom Study, which took the work of 60 scientists across 12 countries in Europe suggests that living near busy roads could be responsible for some 15-30 percent of all new cases of asthma in children.
COMEAP are somewhat more cautious. In a recent statement they conclude that while at a community level (i.e. city or administrative level) induction of asthma does not seem to be associated with the level of air pollutants, there is valid evidence from studies on traffic-related air pollution which suggests that air pollution plays a part in induction of some individuals who live near busy roads with high levels of heavy goods vehicles.