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Air Pollution Blamed as Study Finds Respiratory Illness Hitting HCMC's Children
Respiratory illness continues to be a major health concern for young children in Ho Chi Minh City, according to preliminary study results presented here today.

HO CHI MINH CITY, VIET NAM (26 March 2008) - Respiratory illness continues to be a major health concern for young children in Ho Chi Minh City, according to preliminary study results presented here today.

According to a survey of 1,000 households in the city, more than 90% of children under 5 were found to be suffering from respiratory illness in the past year. Many of these illnesses become severe enough to result in hospitalization; more than 28,000 children under five years of age were admitted to HCMC's children's hospitals for acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) from 2003 to 2005.

Concern has also been raised about increased concentration of air pollutants, including respirable particles (PM10), Ozone, NO2, and SO2, which appear to be associated with the increased hospital admissions for ALRI in young children of HCMC.

The preliminary results were presented at a regional workshop today on Air Pollution, Poverty and Health Effects in Ho Chi Minh City. The project is a collaborative technical assistance funded by the Asian Development Bank, The Health Effects Institute (HEI), and the Ho Chi Minh City Government. Final study results are expected later this year.

The project is led by a team from the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health (DOH) and Environmental Protection Agency (HEPA) working with scientists from the Public Health and Air Pollution in Asia (PAPA) program. It is conducted under the auspices of the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) Partnership, a multi-stakeholder initiative mandated to promote the improvement of air quality management across the
Asia region.

While the health effects of air pollution are well known, most of the research has been conducted in developed Western countries. And while a recent systematic review identified 423 published studies of the health effects of air pollution in Asia, none of these studies were conducted in Viet Nam.

This study is the newest to be conducted under the PAPA Program, which HEI is implementing in support of the CAI-Asia Partnership. The PAPA program also funds research in the People's Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; India, and Thailand.

In addition to focusing on the health effects of children and their families, the study, which began in October 2006, examines whether exposures and health effects are higher among the poor.

"The levels of both air pollution and the extent of poverty in Ho Chi Minh City are somewhat lower than those typically found in many Asian cities," says said Truong Giang, Vice Director of the HCMC Department of
Health.

"With continued governmental commitment to addressing the relationship between air pollution, poverty, and health, HCMC may be able to minimize the health impact of air pollution on its residents and thus serve as a
model for other Asian cities."

Scientists conducting the study have organized briefings with government leaders to discuss its implications. In addition to local stakeholders, researchers from Hong Kong, China, Indonesia; and Philippines are attending the workshop to share their experiences and discuss how methods developed in HCMC might be replicated in other Asian cities.

"The project has extended HEPA's technical capacity to monitor air pollution from the current fixed monitoring sites to include measurement of personal exposures to particulate matter and nitrogen oxides," adds Nguyen Dinh Tuan, director of the HCMC Environmental Protection Agency. Both are necessary to fully understand how air pollution affects populations in HCMC.

The workshop arrived at policy recommendations, taking into account the results of the health impact studies and the regulatory and policy analysis on air quality management conducted by the CAI-Asia Center.

"We hope that this project will help guide Viet Nam policy makers at the local HCMC and national level as they make decisions about mass transportation, and other measures designed to improve air quality," says Nao Ikemoto, an ADB Environment Specialist.

The results of the study will also be presented to national decision makers at a policy briefing in Hanoi on Thursday, 27 March.

For further information about this project, contact:

HCMC Department of Health: Dr. Le Truong Giang, Vice Director
([email protected])
Health Effects Institute: Dan Greenbaum, President,
([email protected])
ADB: Nao Ikemoto, Environmental Specialist ([email protected])
CAI-Asia Center: Cornie Huizenga, Executive Director
([email protected])

Air Pollution, Respiratory Illness, Children, Ho Chi Minh
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