Brown University economics and community health Professor Andrew Foster used surveys, monitoring and remote sensing imagery to assess the effects of air quality on health, a university release said Monday.
One of the most polluted in the world at the turn of the millennium, New Delhi's environment spurred the Indian Supreme Court to set in motion a series of air quality regulations unprecedented in scope and implementation speed. These included converting all public vehicles -- buses, taxis and scooters -- to compressed natural gas, substantially limiting the number of diesel trucks allowed in New Delhi during working hours and closing polluting industries in residential areas.
Foster and co-author Naresh Kumar, of the University of Iowa, administered a health survey to 1,576 households, obtained residence histories and demographic information, and made direct measurements of lung function. They collected air pollution data by monitoring 113 sites spread across New Delhi and neighboring areas, recording particulate matter, and also analyzed images provided by a NASA satellite.
The study found the pollution measures were associated with a significant improvement in respiratory health, although the benefits were not evenly experienced for all economic classes, with significant and negative effects from pollution among lower-income households.
"The huge thing that jumped out is the difference between the relatively poor and the relatively well-off households in terms of the kinds of adverse health effects they experienced," Foster said. "This research opened up a whole new agenda on how we should think about environmental regulation in low income countries."