north-south comparison study finds that the rate of this highly debilitating
breathing sickness in southern children is almost double that compared with
northern children and that twice as many southern children were diagnosed with
asthma soon after celebrating their second birthdays.
study was based largely on comparing respiratory diseases in more than 400
children at four schools in south
and three schools in north
detailed results of the R7 million study will be released at a press conference
at the Durban City Hall today and it is expected to have significant
implications for further industrial expansion policies in the city's industrial
hub - which is also home to about 200 000 people.
the study did not set out to investigate cancer rates in the city, the authors
warned that there was a clearly elevated risk of people getting cancer because
several highly toxic, cancer-causing chemical compounds had been measured
recently in the city's air.
include high levels of benzene (an ingredient of petrol) as well as highly toxic
dioxins and furans which have never been searched for previously in
's air because of the high costs of analysing air samples.
authors have recommended that the
set up a new cancer registry, dedicated to gathering more information on cancer
rates and risk levels in the
north-south comparison, which was held between May 2004 and February last year,
was conducted by a joint team of researchers from the
for Occupational and Environmental Health, the
, the Durban University of Technology and the National Institute for
was funded by the
as part of a major industrial pollution clean-up project initiated by former
Environmental Affairs Minister Valli Moosa five years ago.
researchers Prof Rajen Naidoo, Prof Nceba Gqaleni, Prof Stuart Batterman and
Prof Tom Robbins noted that it was not possible to conduct a more detailed study
of all air pollution health disease risks (such as heart disease, birth defects
or fertility problems) because of huge expense and time issues - so they had
designed the study to focus specifically on breathing-related sickness.
also noted that several important questions remained unanswered by the study -
but this should not hinder the eThekwini council's efforts to put much more
stringent pollution-reduction policies in place.
said the substantial evidence linking four primary air pollutants with weakened
lung functions in south Durban children reinforced the "importance and
urgency" of reducing air pollution levels throughout the city.
pollution legal limits needed to be reviewed regularly and the city should also
enforce the existing laws in the light of the latest findings.
far, no major industries have been fined for air pollution offences, with the
exception of a R10 000 fine for the Engen refinery in October last year, a
penalty which was widely criticised as being "small change" for such a
large, multinational corporation.
study involved four primary schools in south
- Assegai Primary in Austerville, Dirkie Uys Primary in Bluff/Wentworth, Nizam
Road Primary in Merebank and Enthuthukweni Primary in Lamontville.
of these schools are all located less than a kilometre from three of the city's
largest polluting industries - Sapref and Engen petrol refineries and the Mondi
recently, each of the two refineries had been spewing out up to 40 000kg of
sulphur dioxide daily.
three northern schools were Briardale Primary in Briardene, Ferndale Primary in
Newlands and Nagazana Primary in KwaMashu.
of the unexpected findings was the detection of several banned pesticides in the
air - including lindane and DDT.