Children’s lung health affected by agricultural burning

Children’s lung health affected by agricultural burning

02 November 2010

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USA —  A decade old, smoldering controversy grew into a brush fire of logistical concern last spring and is now situated to burst into a full blown prairie fire fight….. For many years, we’ve known and accepted the relationship between health and air quality. Developing reasonable and enforceable environmental regulation has worked in some capacities but remains just beyond functional logic amid our row crops and grazing lands.

However, just like everywhere else, the wind doth blow in rural areas, carrying with it nasty little airborne particles (fondly known as dust) into the seemingly vast, far and away, “Elsewhere.” Unfortunately, it turns out that “Elsewhere” isn’t so far and away. It’s literally right at the tip of our noses. Most alarmingly, it goes right up our children’s noses and down their throats causing their lungs to squeeze those tiny particles right into the aveoli where there they can sit, and sit, and sit. Months can go by before these little bits of dust get worked out of the lungs and into the bloodstream…the affect of which is probably another boat-load-of-money’s worth of research remaining to be completed.
In the meanwhile, let’s look at freshly published research out of India…where, mind-you, according to Bayer Ag, children are culturally common in agricultural fields.


From the November 2010 Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer reviewed open access journal of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences.

New research now shows the smoke produced by crop burning could have a lasting effect on children’s lung function.

Ravinder Agarwal, head of the University Science Instrumentation Centre at Thapar University in Patiala, India, and colleagues used portable spirometers to regularly test the lung function of children aged 10–13 and adults aged 20–35 over the course of a year. The 40 participants were healthy nonsmokers living in a village surrounded by farmland, with little traffic and no industry within 10 km.

Children’s force vital capacity (FVC) dropped from a mean 98% in August 2008 to 92% in July 2009. Mean FVC dipped as low as 88% in October and November, when farmers burned their rice crop residue, and in April and May, when they burned wheat stubble. The children’s mean lung function remained significantly lower throughout the test period. The mean lung function of the adult study participants declined during the burn seasons as well, but largely returned to original levels by the end of the study.

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