Pollution TRAP and Asthma

Respiratory disease in children connected to traffic pollution

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you've ever fueled up at a truck stop, there's no doubt you've inhaled exhaust from diesel-fueled vehicles. Clearly, this is something to avoid, if at all possible.

What happens to children who have no choice but to inhale nasty fumes because their homes are close to roadways and their cities are congested with trucks and automobiles?

A recent United Kingdom study, called Traffic Related Air Pollution (TRAP), indicates that they have a higher incidence of asthma, allergies and hay fever.

"Eat your fruits, vegetables and avoid traffic congestion."

Mohammad Shamssain, Ph.D., a senior lecturer in human physiology - respiratory pathophysiology and epidemiology at the University of Sunderland in the U.K. explains that the aim is to find ways to improve respiratory health in children, adults and the elderly. To reach this goal, they are studying lungs function, respiratory symptoms and risk factors that are associated wtih diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD.

Pollutants, such as nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, particle matter from car and truck exhausts and road dust, are linked to the onset of asthma, according to Dr. Shamssain's research. Since the placenta does not offer protection from exposure, this risk for newborns may begin in utero.

Pollutants, which can effect fetal circulation, have a significant impact on growth and development. Cases of babies born with mental retardation, disease and low birth weight have been associated with in utero pollution exposure.

Shamssain's plan for addressing pollution problems and subsequent asthma and allergy is three-tiered. First, he is citing previous studies that show when air pollution is reduced, annual asthma-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations decrease 73 percent. Also, hospital admissions associated with bronchitis decrease 50 percent.

Awareness programs are the second part of Shamssain's plan of attack against pollution. Parents and children need to know that limiting their exposure to ambient pollution reduces asthma and allergy symptoms.

The third part of the doctor's plan is simple. Everyone should take personal responsibility for their health by eating a healty diet. Adding more fruits, vegetables and vitamin A and C supplements can provide natural antioxidants.

Shamssain explains that antioxidants may naturally strengthen the body's defenses against allergens and air pollution. Adding daily sulforaphene supplements, which is a powerful inducer of antioxidant enzymes, may reduce inflammatory responses to diesel fuel exhaust. Foods that contain naturally occurring sulforaphene include brussel sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, apples, turnips, broccoli and carrots.

The study assessed lung function in 1,397 children aged 7 to 10 and measured air pollution levels in Cairo, one of the most traffic-congested cities in the world. Dr. Shamssain and his team found a high prevalence of hay fever symptoms, wheezing, eczema and asthma.

There appears to be an increased risk of asthma development in children who live close to roads with heavy traffic. These children are more likely to miss school and require hospitalization for the treatment of wheezing and chronic dry cough. Additional research by Shamssain indicates two million premature deaths occur worldwide due to pollution.

His research was recently presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in Colorado. Studies are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 7, 2011
Last Updated:
July 23, 2011