Researchers Develop An Inhaler To Protect Against Air Pollution

Beijing issued a red alert last year after smog enveloped the city. testing/Shutterstock

Josh Davis 19 Sep 2016, 15:38

The air which we breathe is becoming a major public health issue. It is thought that millions of people die prematurely due to air pollution, affecting all nations globally. Now, scientists have created a special inhaler that can apparently protect the lungs against the chemicals and tiny particles present in air pollution, reports The Guardian.

Developed by the medical devices company Bitop, the inhaler uses a molecule first identified in the 1980s, that helps bacteria survive the scorching heat of the desert. The molecule, known as ectoine, binds to water, a property that is being utilized in the new medical device. By inhaling the molecule, it joins together the water in the lungs creating a natural barrier to air pollution. This helps to prevent and limit the damage caused by the particles breathed in, in turn helping to reduce inflammation of the lungs that can lead to asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer.

Because the device uses a molecule that does not actually interact with the service receptors, it is not technically classified as a drug, meaning that it does not require as intense clinical trials, and could be sold over the counter. The manufacturers recommend that it should be used twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, and expect the device to be available not just in the Europe, but globally.   

Air pollution is becoming a growing issue globally. From the recent smog that enveloped Beijing and other regions of China, sparking unprecedented red alerts being issued in 10 cities, and the horrendous forest fires that swept across large tracts of Indonesia and Malaysia cloaking the entire region in smoke for months on end, tens of millions of people are being exposed to air pollution around the world.

“Air pollution is one of the leading risk factors for death and disease around the world,” Professor Michael Brauer, from the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health, who is not involved with the new inhaler, explained back in February. “One of the unique things about air pollution is that you can’t run [and] you can’t hide from it… Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population.”

In fact, it is estimated that somewhere between three and five million people a year die prematurely due to air pollution, meaning that more are killed due to the polluted air that they breathe than are killed by malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. To be sure, this issue needs to be tackled by preventing dangerous chemicals and particles being emitted in the first place, but there is still a role for medical devices such as the inhaler if they contribute to preventing at least some of these deaths.

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