Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 6°C

Traffic pollution causing 1,700 new cases of asthma in Ireland every year

It means 150 in every 100,000 children here are diagnosed with asthma as a result of traffic pollution.

THERE ARE 1,700 new cases of childhood asthma as a result of traffic-pollution in Ireland every year, a new global study has revealed.

A study published in the Lancet Planetary Health Journal reviewed the incidence of asthma in children, which is attributable to traffic-pollution, in 194 countries around the world.

It found the countries with the highest rates of traffic pollution-related asthma cases each year are Kuwait with 550 cases per 100,000 children; the United Arab Emirates with 460 cases per 100,000; and Canada with 450 cases per 100,000.

In Ireland, it identified 1,700 new cases of the disease annually, which is said to be a consequence of pollutants emitted from vehicles.

It means an average of 150 children in every 100,000 here are diagnosed with asthma – which leads to symptoms including difficulty in breathing, as well as wheezing and coughing - as a result of traffic pollution.

The report attributes 9% of asthma incidences in children to traffic pollution, which it measures by the level of exposure to long-term nitrogen dioxide (NO2) - airbound micro-particles released from vehicles.

Figures from the HSE show 470,000 individuals have been diagnosed with the condition and it is the most common respiratory disease in Ireland.

Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, said the report was a huge concern for the charity. 

“Today’s research from the Lancet indicates that children are developing asthma as a direct result of traffic pollution and this is a huge concern for us.

“Asthma affects one in 10 adults and one in five children in Ireland. Improving air quality is a top priority for the Asthma Society as we represent the 470,000 people with asthma in Ireland.

“People with asthma are particularly impacted by air pollution and it can cause their condition to escalate. We have been campaigning for years at government level to introduce policy changes to reduce air pollution, including that caused by traffic.”


Urban areas were identified as having the highest incidence rate and the report examined preliminary data for four Irish cities – Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. 

In Dublin, it found 170 children in every 100,000 were diagnosed with the condition; in Galway, 170 in every 100,000 children were diagnosed with asthma; in Cork, 188 in every 100,000 were diagnosed with asthma; and in Limerick, 220 in every 100,000 were diagnosed with asthma.  

The EU and World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends NO2 levels should remain below 40ug/m3 to avoid accelerating the risk of developing respiratory diseases.

A 2017 study of air pollution in Ireland by the Environmental Protection Agency, however, found the NO2 levels were, at times, dangerously close to that guideline from the WHO as it climbed to 35 ug/m3.


Globally, the Lancet journal study, carried out by researchers at the George Washington University in the US, found there are 170 new cases of traffic-related asthma per 100,000 children every year.

Meanwhile, 13% of the total number of asthma cases diagnosed each year are attributed to traffic pollution.

Lead author on the report, Ploy Achakulwisut, told that change was required at an international level to reduce the number of new asthma cases annually around the world. 

“We’ve found that about one in 10 cases of asthma diagnosed and attributed to traffic pollution and the majority of cases occur in urban areas and cities.

“We suggest it’s a worldwide problem that has a significant impact from traffic pollution causing asthma to develop in children.

“It’s a widespread public health issue and action needs to be taken with policy initiatives to improve traffic pollution which relates to a wide range of other adverse health outcomes,” she added. 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel