By Sola Ogundipe
MILLIONS of Nigerian children who live in houses close to a main road may beÂ in greater danger of coming down with pneumonia as a result ofÂ pollution from passing traffic which causes damage to their lungs.
Medical experts who propose further investigation into the effects of vehicular pollution on childhood pneumonia – one of the biggest contributors to childhood mortality in Nigeria – say high mortality rates from the disorder have been associated with areas with elevated ambient pollution levels.
Leading expert in childhood breathing difficulties, Prof. Jonathan Grigg,Â made the link between exposure to particles from vehicle exhausts and a child’s susceptibility to the chest infection.
Grigg, an honorary consultant at the Royal London Hospital and academic paediatrician at Queen Mary, University of London, gave insight into the possibility, following aÂ Â breakthrough study of the effect of airborne pollutants on human lung cells.
During the research, he and his team discovered that children whose home is within 100 metres of a main road could be as much as 65 per cent more likely than others to develop pneumonia.
Childhood pneumonia is a leading cause of child death worldwide, killing more than two million children each year. Although the disease is usually associated with the elderly, it is a significant childhood illness. In Nigeria,Â an estimated 200,000 annual deaths occur.
Grigg took contaminated air particles collected as part of Leicester city council’s air-quality monitoring system and recreated their impact in a laboratory. He then added bacteria that would cause pneumonia in a human and assessed how many were sticking to the surface of the cells and getting inside them. In normal lungs a few bacteria do that, but in the lung cells that had been artificially exposed to pollution three to four times more did so.
“These findings strongly suggest that particles pollution is a major factor in making children vulnerable to pneumonia. We’ve shown a very firm link between the two.â€