More evidence have surfaced on Monday that suggested air pollution may contribute to the respiratory and allergic diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, and even tuberculosis, researchers said.

The relationship between air pollution and respiratory disease is complex, however recent studies have shown an increased recognition of the importance of acknowledging traffic-related air pollution and emissions from domestic and biomass fuels and their adverse effects on health, particularly in less developed nations.

Robert Laumbach of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Howard Kipen said in a report that newer methods for measuring and modeling exposure to pollutants have begun to “unravel complex associations with asthma and other respiratory tract diseases.”

The report that will be published in the January 2012 edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that because a high degree of variability in personal exposure to pollutants, contact with air pollution from a variety of sources can largely be prevented.

“These studies indicate that air pollution from these sources is a major preventable cause of increased incidence and exacerbation of respiratory disease. Physicians can help to reduce the risk of adverse respiratory effects of exposure to biomass and traffic air pollutants by promoting awareness and supporting individual and community-level interventions,” the authors of the study wrote.

Researchers indicated that there had been alarming global increases in the rates of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease over recent years, and researchers have launched more aggressive investigations into the role of biomass fuels (BMFs) and motor vehicles on public health.

Past studies have shown that children living in more polluted areas have also shown to have reduced lung growth compared to children living in cleaner areas, and that moving to cleaner areas will improve lung growth, according to the report.


Asthma is worsened on days with higher levels of ozone and other pollutants, and is often measured by visits to emergency rooms, researchers said. However, more studies have designed more complex cohort methods to understand traffic-related pollutants and its role in the genesis or causation of asthma.

Recent studies have also shown an increased risk of 26 to 51 percent of childhood asthma with more exposure to traffic pollutants at home, school or both, and that non-freeway pollutants showed a stronger effect than those from freeways, which could mean that frequent acceleration and deceleration may increase pollution.

Studies have also shown that infants who were at a high familial risk for asthma who were exposed to more nitric oxide and small particulate matter were significantly more likely to develop asthma by seven.

A Swiss study also found that the hazard ratio for diagnosed asthma in adults also significantly increased as more as emissions and traffic pollution increased in a decade.

Respiratory Tract Infection

The World Health Organization reported that exposure to indoor air pollution doubles the risk of pneumonia and other acute lower respiratory tract infections, and could account for half of the 800,000 annual worldwide fatalities in children younger than 5 years old.

According to past studies, biomass fuels increased the risk of pneumonia by nearly 200 percent, and increased the risk of acute respiratory tract infection by more than 300 percent in children.


Studies have also shown that more use of biomass fuels correlated with higher rates of tuberculosis infections globally.

A study examined a large sample of Indian households and found an increase in self reported tuberculosis infection with more BMF use, but smoking was not accounted for in the study, and no studies have shown an association between traffic pollution and tuberculosis.

What Can Be Done

More regulation and better medical advice need to be set in place to reduce the growing rates of respiratory diseases and asthma researchers concluded.

“These risks need to be both incorporated into public policy and explored for their role in medical decision making at the individual level, “ Researchers wrote.