How diesel takes its toll on children's lungs

by JAMES CHAPMAN, Daily Mail

Scientists have uncovered devastating proof that diesel exhaust fumes can penetrate into the lungs of children, trig-gering asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.

British experts found tiny carbon particles, pumped out by engines, deep in the lungs of all the children they examined, aged as young as three months.

It is the first study to show that diesel particles reach and are taken up by the cells in the deepest parts of the lung which help get oxygen into the bloodstream.

Further research showed that children exposed to more exhaust fumes because they lived alongside main roads were up to twice as likely to suffer coughs and wheezing than those in quieter areas.

Dr Jonathan Grigg, senior lecturer in paediatric respiratory medicine at Leicester University, who led the research, said: 'We are finding particles in cells that are known to cause lung injury.'

The research is published today in Thorax, the medical journal of the British Thoracic Society. Diesel was hailed in the 1970s as a 'green' fuel and given lower duty rates because of its low emissions of carbon dioxide, thought to be associated with global warming.

Around one in six cars in the UK runs on diesel fuel. But there has been increasing concern over recent years about the health effects of diesel particulates.

Children are thought to be particularly vulnerable because they breathe more quickly, moving more air deep into their lungs than adults.

They also exercise more and spend more time outside, increasing their chances of exposure.

The latest research could help explain why cases of asthma in under-fives have doubled in the last ten years. It is estimated there are now 5.1 million sufferers in the UK.

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