Small particles (PM10) found in diesel exhaust fumes can penetrate into the lungs of children, according to new research published in this month's Thorax (December 2001), the journal of the British Thoracic Society (BTS).
The study, conducted at the Institute for Lung Health at the University of Leicester, is the first conclusive evidence that particles from diesel exhaust reach, and are taken up, by cells (alveolar macrophages) that reside on the deepest part of the lung.
Dr Jonathan Grigg and his team looked for particles in cells sampled from the lungs of 22 healthy children - and found evidence of diesel particles in them all.
The level of particles was significantly higher in children living on a main road, although there was no difference in the proportion of these particles in children of different ages.
PM10 are tiny particles - less than 10 micrometers in diameter - and their small size allows them to penetrate deep into the lung, where they can aggravate respiratory disease. The Government has estimated that there are 24,000 deaths of adults a year, which can be attributed to the inhalation of PM10.
Dr Jonathan Grigg, Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine and lead researcher on the study, said: "This research, which shows particles in cells that are known to cause lung injury, supports epidemiological studies which demonstrate the adverse effect of particles on the respiratory health of children.
PM10 are one of the most damaging pollutants and can penetrate far into the lungs - causing inflammation, coughing, respiratory symptoms and even permanent damage. This biological evidence is very important in furthering our understanding of air pollution and its effects."
Dr John Harvey, Chairman of the Communications Committee at the British Thoracic Society, added:
"This research is clear evidence that current levels of air pollution are damaging the lungs of children across the UK. We urge Government and other bodies to fund long-term studies so we can further probe avoidable causes of lung damage in children - and find solutions. We owe it to future generations to help them breathe easier."
For further information, please contact Gina Coladangelo or Tracey Beames on 020 7815 3900 or via email@example.com
Notes to Editors
· Thorax is the journal of the British Thoracic Society
· The BTS is the professional body of respiratory specialists in the UK
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