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Doctor Visits Increasing in Children Due to Pollution

A study conducted in early 2021 revealed that after being exposed to increased heavily polluted air for a week, the number of children visiting doctors was significantly higher. As most of the patients were diagnosed with asthma, an increase in inhaler prescriptions was also noted. 

While numerous studies over the years have proven the link between an increase in respiratory issues (such as asthma) and hospital visits, last year’s research focused on a larger population of people who visited their GP for treatment. Researchers utilised clinical data to highlight the increase. 

Although the study was conducted among the general population, the ones most affected were the children. This is no surprise, though, because they are, along with seniors, the vulnerable population. In fact, data from an August 2021 analysis by the London city hall identified over 3.1 million schoolchildren in England as exposed to excess levels of particulate matter or PM2.5, which is a type of pollutant that can permeate into a person’s bloodstream. 

It is important to note, however, that the increased demand for inhaler prescriptions and GP visits was for patients of all age groups. According to researchers, this is an indication of how widespread the adverse effects of air pollution are – it impacts not only individuals or particular age groups but entire communities.

The study was conducted over five years in south London. It gathered data using 750,000+ GP consultations on respiratory issues, as well as the number of inhaler prescriptions. 

Research Details

According to the research, Lambeth’s average particle pollution level at the time of the study was 21µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre) of air. If this increased by around 9µg/m3 in a week, the increase in GP consultations of children with asthma and other respiratory problems was at least 7.5% higher. 

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution was also measured, with its average level estimated at 51µg/m3. In instances where there was an increase of about 22µg/m3, GP consultations were higher by 6%. 

Research leader Mark Ashworth of King’s College London said the increases are huge, something that they have never encountered before. 

Additionally, since GP visits and respiratory-related consultations frequently involve children, the rise in percentage indicates a huge increase in extra visits.

Researchers gathered only GP data during surgery hours and from Monday to Friday; no evening or weekend consultations. 

Ashworth and his team believe that if the data they collected were available in 2013, young Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah would still be alive today. She died after a severe bout of asthma and in December 2020, after an inquest, the coroner officially ruled her death was caused by air pollution.

The study is evidence that there is a strong link between respiratory illnesses and diesel emissions or diesel pollution.

Along with Ella’s mother Rosamund, the researchers are calling on the UK government to ban diesel vehicles at the soonest time possible. Programs that specifically address excess emissions should also be strengthened. It is vital to educate and warn the public about various air pollution levels and their environmental and health impacts. 

Why are diesel emissions dangerous?

Diesel emissions are emitted as NOx or nitrogen oxide or NOx, which has nitric oxide or NO, and nitrogen dioxide or NO2. When it reacts with other elements, it produces pollutants such as ground-level ozone and forms acid rain and smog.

NOx emissions, particularly ground-level ozone, affect vegetation. Plants and crops exposed to NOx become weak and vulnerable to frost and damage. Other forms of vegetation can be affected as well.

When a person is exposed to NOx, the possibility of developing health conditions is high. Some of the most common impacts include asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and other respiratory illnesses. Some people experience shortness of breath as fluid can accumulate in their lungs in reaction to the pollutants finding their way into their respiratory system. 

Laryngospasm, asphyxiation, and chronic reduction of lung function are common health impacts of nitrogen oxide, especially for constant and high-level exposure. 

The most serious complications, however, are cardiovascular diseases and premature death. Each year, reports show hundreds of millions of early deaths are linked to air pollution.

What was the Dieselgate scandal about?

Diesel emissions have been in the spotlight since 2015, when the Dieselgate scandal involving the Volkswagen Group first broke. US authorities allegedly found defeat devices in VW and Audi diesel vehicles that were sold in the American automotive market. A defeat device is used to artificially bring down emissions levels during regulatory testing so that the vehicle would appear emissions-compliant and thus, environmentally friendly.

When the vehicle is taken out of the lab and driven on real roads, however, the vehicle releases vast amounts of nitrogen oxide, making it a heavy pollutant. So, VW deceived their customers when they sold their vehicles as high-priced but fuel-efficient alternatives. 

The Volkswagen Group was only the start of the story; other manufacturers become embroiled in the scandal, including UK-based Vauxhall. These carmakers should be held responsible for their deceitful act. 

If you or anyone you know has a Vauxhall – or any vehicle – with a defeat device, you can make a claim against your carmaker and bring them to court.

Before doing so, though, you have to first verify if you are qualified to receive compensation. ClaimExperts.co.uk has all the information you need, so visiting their website is the best thing to do now if you want to start your Vauxhall emissions claim properly.            

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