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Half of childhood asthma cases in Barcelona due to air pollution

ISGlobal study finds Catalan capital has one of highest rates in Europe, with children of wealthier families hit hardest

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07 February 2020 01:16 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

Barcelona has one of the highest rates of childhood asthma caused by air pollution in Europe, with almost half of all cases due to the atmospheric conditions in the city, according to a new study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, ISGlobal.

The study found that 48% of 1,230 cases of childhood asthma were due to air pollution, with children from families of a higher socioeconomic level affected the most, because unlike many cities, Barcelona's wealthier residents tend to live in areas with more traffic.

Published in 'Environmental Research,' the study focused on three air pollutants: nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter (PM2.5), and black carbon (BC). The asthma rate in children between 1 and 18 was taken from the Global Burden of Disease database.

Asthma is the most common illness among children and has even been linked to fatalities. In August, ISGlobal published another study that looked at data from 63 million children in 18 European countries, estimating that 33% of asthma cases can be attributed to air pollution.

Research based on two scenarios

The researchers based their calculations on two scenarios: the maximum annual levels of air pollution in the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the lowest levels of air pollution detected in a review of 41 previous scientific studies.

In the first scenario, the study found that if Barcelona were to comply with the WHO's recommendations, 454 cases of asthma attributed to NO2 could be avoided (18% of the total cases) and another 478 in the case of PM2.5 (19%).

In the second scenario, the researchers calculated that 1,230 cases of asthma attributed to NO2 could be avoided (48% of the total cases), 992 in the case of PM2.5 (39%), and 789 in the case of black carbon.

In the study, the researchers conclude that Barcelona urgently needs measures in order to reduce the volume of motor vehicle traffic, because road traffic is one of the main causes of air pollution in the city.

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  • Barcelona's Sagrada Família surrounded by smog on July 1, 2019 (Nazaret Romero/ACN)

  • Barcelona's Sagrada Família surrounded by smog on July 1, 2019 (Nazaret Romero/ACN)

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