City dangers: the correlation between asthma and traffic-related pollution in urban areas

By Patrycja Sztachelski 

According to a study published by researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, approximately 4 million children globally develop asthma each year because of inhaling nitrogen dioxide air pollution. The findings suggest that an overwhelming number of cases of pediatric asthma could be prevented in cities by reducing air pollution.

As Susan C. Anenberg, PhD, the senior author of the study and an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute SPH states, “improving access to cleaner forms of transportation, like electrified public transport and active commuting by cycling and walking, would not only bring down NO2 levels, but would also reduce asthma, enhance physical fitness, and cut greenhouse gas emissions”. Some key findings from the study include that an estimated 4 million children acquired asthma each year between 2010 and 2015 as a result of exposure to nitrogen dioxide pollution, which mainly comes from motor vehicle exhaust, and for cities in the US specifically, the top five places with the highest percentage of pediatric asthma cases linked to polluted air include Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee.

In response to these findings, the World Health Organization has recognized that guidelines for nitrogen dioxide levels may have to be reassessed. Unfortunately, they found that approximately 92 percent of the new pediatric asthma cases that could be attributed to nitrogen dioxide presented in areas that sufficiently meet the WHO guideline, which thereby emphasizes the need for reforming the current policies.


George Washington University. (2019, April 10). Millions of children worldwide develop asthma annually due to traffic-related pollution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 15, 2019 from