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Truth Behind the Headlines: Air pollution linked to a rise in emergency room visits by children

Local media are reporting that increases in air pollution have been linked to a rise in emergency room visits by children.


A new study from Delhi, India has shown a correlation between a rise in fine particulate matter – PM10 and PM2.5 with emergency room visits for treatment of respiratory-illness in children.


The study, that has not yet been peer-reviewed, states that there was a roughly 21%-28% increase in visits by children manifesting symptoms of acute respiratory disease during days of ‘high’ and ‘moderate’ level pollution, compared to days of ‘low pollution’.


This is timely as Delhi sees a significant rise in pollution in winter, increasing the health risks for vulnerable groups – such as children.

Using our recommended five tips, Global Action Plan reviewed the study:


Questions to ask to get to the truth Our response
1. Does the article refer to a report to back up its claims?

The article refers to a pre-print study published on medRxiv. The study has not yet been peer reviewed.

2. Who is behind the study it refers to?

Researchers from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital and Vallabbhai Patel Chest Institute were all involved in the study.

3. How fantastical and radical is the claim that is being made?

For the study, the researchers compared levels of PM10 and PM 2.5, SO2 (sulphur dioxide), CO (carbon monoxide), NO2 (nitrous oxide) and O3 (ozone) with daily data on emergency room admissions of children. The age of the children studied ranged from 5 months to 3 years.



4. What geographical region does the claim refer to?

Delhi, India

5. What is the sample size of the study?

The study analysed hospital visits of as many as 19,120 children over two years, from June 2017 to February 2019.


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