Higher than average daily air pollution levels increase childhood hospitalisations

A summary of research published in Environmental Health

A new study has looked at the impact of four major air pollutants on lung infections in children.

What did the study look at?

192,079 children who stayed in hospital with a lung infection were included in the study.

Researchers specifically looked at acute lower respiratory infections. These include pneumonia as well as bronchiolitis, influenza and whooping cough.

Data were collected between January 2017 and December 2018 from hospitals in Sichuan Province, China. Weather and air pollution data from sites in the province were also collected. The four pollutants studied were:

  • fine particulate matter (PM2.5)
  • inhalable particulate matter (PM10)
  • sulphur dioxide (SO2)
  • nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

What do the results show?

There was a rise in the number of children in hospital with lung infections when there was a rise in the average daily levels of the air pollutants.

The study also found that older children were more at risk from outdoor air pollutants. All children were at more risk during the hot season. There was also an increased cost to the economy from the rise in hospitalisations.

Why is this important?

The findings show the impact of four different air pollutants on children’s health. There are many different pollutants in the air. The mix of these pollutants and the different levels of pollution can produce a range of health effects. This is both in the short term (within hours and days) and long term (after some years). These findings add to a weight of evidence showing the harm air pollution causes to human health.

Find out more about the impact of outdoor air pollution and what you can do to avoid the risks.

Read the original research paper:

Short-term effects and economic burden of air pollutants on acute lower respiratory tract infections in children in Southwest China: a time-series study