With over nine million citizens and 23 million registered vehicles, Seoul is a prime example of a city constantly on the move. However, the city’s need for transportation has caused South Korea’s air quality to suffer. A recent study shows that the alarming increase in child asthma cases globally is linked to traffic pollution. One out of three new diagnoses in South Korea was linked to nitrogen dioxide exposure, a prominent pollutant from traffic emissions.
For the rest of the world, traffic pollution has attributed to four million new cases of children with asthma. Communities living near major roads and highways are exposed to pollutants that can irritate airways, leading to inflammation of the lungs. It can also trigger asthma attacks in children and adults. These microscopic pollutants in the air infiltrate respiratory and circulatory systems in the body – damaging the lungs, brain, and heart. Now, traffic emissions account for 80% of all ambient nitrogen dioxide present in urban landscapes.
Cities such as Zurich addressed this issue by capping parking spaces and limiting the number of vehicles allowed in the city at one time to encourage public transportation use. On the other hand, bicycles now outnumber Danish citizens in Copenhagen as parts of the city closed its access to cars, thus encouraging eco-friendly and healthy methods of traveling. With politicians and governments now taking the threat of air pollution seriously, countries might be able to reverse the effects that put the health of both children and adults at risk.