Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have received funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to conduct research into air pollution exposure affecting children in Africa.
ACACIA team photo from 2019 launch
The £500,000 grant has been awarded to the team who are already carrying out the ‘Achieving Control of Asthma in Children In Africa’ (ACACIA) study and were previously awarded £2 million from the NIHR for their work in Africa.
High levels of exposure to air pollution have been connected to increased severity of asthma, as well as asthma exacerbations. In recent decades sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a rise of asthma prevalence in children, which now exceeds 10 per cent in many urban areas. ACACIA’s preliminary results suggest that participants with severe asthma in the six urban study areas may be affected by high air pollution exposure, with between 18-44 per cent of them living near a dump site with waste burning at least monthly.
Personal air pollution monitoring can provide valuable evidence of a child’s exposure to air pollutants and help provide insights into ways of mitigating this risk.
In this new study, the team will aim to recruit 420 children with asthma symptoms aged between 12 and 16 years, across seven African cities. The children will wear backpacks fitted with monitoring equipment for one week, which are able to record the child’s air pollution exposure, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.
In addition to continuing to work in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Malawi and Zimbabwe, the team have now expanded to run this study in Tanzania.
Lead research Professor Jonathan Grigg from Queen Mary University of London said: “I am delighted that the NHIR is supporting this study into air pollution in children in Sub Saharan Africa. The more we are learning about the adverse health effects of air pollution in low and middle income countries, the more we need to understand where African children are being most exposed.”
Professor Blandina Theophil Mmbaga from the Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute in Tanzania said: “We are very happy to join the ACACIA NIHR research team, this project will be potential for our institution and our country in understanding the link between air population and asthma in paediatric population where the exposure is high, however, data on the quality of air and its impact in this population is limited.”