A LEADING asthma expert claims traffic pollution can affect unborn children.
Dr Mohammad Shamssain, a senior lecturer at the University of Sunderland, is calling for a nationwide study into the effects of vehicle pollution on asthma sufferers, after his own research highlighted health problems in children who may have even been affected in the womb.
Dr Shamssain and his team completed a study into the impact that high levels of traffic pollution has on schoolchildren’s respiratory systems.
Testing the lung functions of 1,397 children, aged seven to 10, and measuring pollution levels in Cairo, one of the world’s most traffic-congested cities, they discovered a high prevalence of asthma, wheezing, eczema and hay fever symptoms.
As part of his study – Trap (Traffic Related Air Pollution) – Dr Shamssain has been researching findings in other countries and discovered that air pollution causes two million premature deaths worldwide per year.
His findings have been welcomed by Asthma UK, but he says this kind of research needs more attention in the UK. He is calling on the Department of Health and Research Funding Council to conduct more serious surveys in major UK cities to assess the impact vehicle emissions are having on people.
Dr Shamssain said: “We have identified that pollutants such as nitrogen and sulphur dioxide as well as particle matter from vehicle exhausts and road dust are linked to the onset of asthma.
“The risk can start from the time a child is in the womb, as the placenta does not offer protection to mothers exposed to pollutants. Pollutants entering the foetal circulation have a significant impact on growth and development.
“Reducing traffic exposure to children is expected to reduce the symptoms and prevalence of asthma.
“There could also be a long- term cost saving to health agencies.”
The lecturer also believes through awareness programmes relayed to parents, schools and children, the risks can be reduced by avoiding high-level exposure and outdoor activities during periods of high pollution.
Taking simple steps such as eating fruit, vegetables and taking vitamins A and C, can provide an antioxidant for the respiratory system.