Kids under 5 at more risk of pneumonia
Children, under the age of five, exposed to arsenic have two-times higher the risk of developing pneumonia than children not exposed, said a new study.
Scientists arrived at this conclusion after looking at arsenic concentration in urine samples of 153 children aged between one month to five years with severe and very severe pneumonia, said a statement of icddr,b.
For comparison, they also looked at 296 healthy children in the same age group, according to the study titled "Arsenic exposure is associated with paediatric pneumonia in rural Bangladesh: a case control study".
Scientists of icddr,b and Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, USA and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA conducted the study during January 2012 and September 2013 at icddr,b's rural site in Matlab of Chandpur.
"Chronic arsenic exposure reduces CD4 T cell number, which is vital for mediating adaptive immunity to a variety of pathogens, affecting the overall immune functions of the human body. This could increase risk of pneumonia in children," said Dr Mohammad Yunus, senior consultant on the study and former head of icddr,b's Matlab Hospital.
CD4 T cells are blood cells that signal other types of immune cells to destroy infectious particles. Reduction of such cells leaves immune systems vulnerable to infections, scientists said.
The finding is significant as pneumonia is the biggest cause of death of children under the age of five in Bangladesh, accounting for 27 percent of all deaths.
To make matters worse, it is estimated that more than 35 million people in Bangladesh is at risk of being exposed to arsenic concentration greater than the national standard and guidelines of WHO, according to icddr,b.