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A new report examining the relationship between exposure to air pollution and asthma has been released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report Monitoring the impact of air pollution on asthma in Australia explores the Australian research in this area and presents a method for estimating the contribution of air pollution to asthma hospitalisations. It then applies this method to a real case-Melbourne in 2006.

The case study estimated that about 3% of the 6,200 asthma hospitalisations in Melbourne in 2006 were related to exposure to nitrogen dioxide, while about 4% of the 3,533 asthma hospitalisations of 0 to 14 year olds were related to particles in the air.

'Linking air pollution to health outcomes is fraught with complexities,' said Dr Adrian Webster of the AIHW's Respiratory Conditions and Primary Care Unit.

'For example, there are key gaps in what we know about how air pollution affects asthma as well as weaknesses in available data sources that make drawing conclusions difficult.'

'These limitations aside, this report attempts to focus the research in this area on key issues and identifies a methodology that could be used for monitoring the impact of air pollution on asthma hospitalisations over time.'

The report has been produced as part of a broader asthma monitoring program, with the main interest assessing the contribution of air pollution to the burden of asthma in Australia.

'While the method used for this case study requires refinement based on further research in this field, this type of method is crucial for estimating the health impacts of climate change and extreme events such as bushfires and dust storms,' Dr Webster said.

Monday 22 March 2010

Further information: Adrian Webster, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1119, mob. 0418 271 395

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.

Monitoring the impact of air pollution on asthma in Australia

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