The study, the first of its kind, which looks at the direct health effects of expected CO2 levels, revealed that the results are worrying and highlight the urgent need for more research.
What is a strong partnership between the Children’s Telethon Institute, the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Perth Children’s Hospital, said Professor Alexander Larcombe, a member of the Wallian Respiratory Center, that humans have evolved to inhale carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at around 300 parts per million.
Larcombe added, “Current levels are just over 400 parts per million, and climate change modeling predicts that it is likely to increase in our lifetime to twice that.”
He continued, “There are a lot of studies looking at the environmental and health impacts of climate change, but nothing focuses only on the health effects of inhaling higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
The tests were conducted on mice, which the researchers say are naturally able to withstand the increased levels of carbon dioxide due to their digging habits. The study found that exposure to about 900 parts per million of carbon dioxide had a direct effect on both lung function and the structure of mice that had been living in that environment throughout pregnancy, early life, and into early adulthood.
Professor Larcombe said: “Lung damage included the altered air sacs, which is the important part of the lung that aids in gas exchange, which means they may have had more difficulty breathing.”
He continued: “We have also seen some changes in the actual physical structure of the lungs, and both of these changes mean that the lungs are not working as well as they should.”
Interestingly, the lungs of adult mice not exposed to elevated carbon dioxide during early life did not show signs of weakness, which is what researchers believe their lungs were fully formed before they were exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide.
University of Western Australia researcher Dr. Caitlin Whirol, who co-authored this study, described the results as important work because they provided “the first glimpse into the fact that these higher levels of exposure to carbon dioxide are actually affecting the health of developing lungs.”
“This work showed us that exposure to expected levels of carbon dioxide during pregnancy and early in life is likely to lead to changes in lung function when mice are adults. Therefore, this may be an opportunity to focus on this period and help protect lung growth,” she added. Thus improving health outcomes later in life. “
Whirol said that more research in this area is critical to fully understanding the potential health impact on our children in the future.
Dr Whirol explained: “The lungs are the first organs we expected to be affected, and this gives us evidence that other systems in the body may be affected as well. We need to do more research on how it affects the respiratory system, as well as how the bones and kidneys develop, and also how they work. the brain”.