Asthma from traffic pollution underestimated, finds study
A study released online this week shows the cost and rates of asthma from traffic pollution have been underestimated. Researchers for the study used new techniques to find the cost of the disease is $18 million per year.
According to the investigation, led by University of Massachusetts Amherst resource economist Sylvia Brandt, with colleagues in California and Switzerland, factoring in traffic pollution as a cause and trigger for asthma boosts estimates of cases and cost associated with the respiratory disease.
The authors say factoring in new asthma cases and exacerbation from pollution is important, given the growing body of evidence that fine particulate matter from traffic inflames the airways and contributes to new diagnoses and makes existing asthma worse.
Brandt and colleagues looked at asthma rates and cost in River Side and Long Beach, using the updated technique. They found the total annual cost of asthma was $3,819 in Long Beach and $4,063 in Riverside.
The authors say, “the largest share of the cost of an asthma case was the indirect cost of asthma-related school absences." School absences are important, they add, because "they often lead to parents or caregivers missing work."
Brandt says, "Traditional risk assessment methods for air pollution have underestimated both the overall burden of asthma and the cost of the disease associated with air pollution. Our findings suggest the cost has been substantially underestimated and steps must be taken to reduce the burden of traffic-related pollution."
Half of the $18 million annually is from new cases, according to the study authors.
The researchers found cost, new cases and exacerbation of asthma related to missed work, school absences, extra doctor visits, travel and prescriptions is higher for those living in areas polluted by traffic and has been underestimated.
European Respiratory Journal:doi: 10.1183/09031936.00157811
"Costs of childhood asthma due to traffic-related pollution in two california communities"
S.J. Brandt et al.
January 20, 2012
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