Let’s all have a cigarette!

As awareness grows of the damage caused by passive smoking, countries around the world are bringing in bans on smoking in public places and work places. However, a report published yesterday by Mexico’s National Public Health Institute reveals that pollution in Mexico City is causing more damage to children than cigarette smoke.

Mexico City is one of the world's largest cities

Scientists studied 3,170 eight-year-olds in the city and found that the city’s high levels of air pollution prevented young lungs from developing and working properly. The research findings are alarmingly different from earlier research which documented only reversible, short-term breathing problems caused by polluted cities. “Strikingly, the effect of pollutant exposure … among the children in (the) study was slighter greater than the effect of exposure to maternal smoking among children in the United States,” researchers wrote in the August issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Mexico City, population approximately 18 million, is positioned in a bowl-shaped valley, trapping vehicle fumes, at 7,300 feet above sea level. The air is thin and smog levels build up rapidly. In recent years the Government has attempted to cut pollution by closing factories, modernising buses and promoting bicycle use.

The researchers concluded that “Although we could not identify specific sources (of the pollutants), the effect is likely to be due to vehicular exhaust”.