Contaminantes en niños: Un estudio de caso preocupante

Los niños que viven cerca de la planta petroquímica tienen más incidencia de asma y más síntomas respiratorios como disnea, tos nocturna, y rinitis, así como disminución funcional de los pulmones en relación a niños que viven en otras zonas.
Durante más de dos años, un grupo de trabajo dirigido por el Dr Andrés Porta realizó un proyecto desde BIOS para evaluar la incidencia de la calidad del aire en el desarrollo de patologías respiratorias en la población infantil de dos distritos del territorio bonaerense y transferir los resultados obtenidos a los actores públicos y sociales claves en las definiciones sanitarias y ambientales regionales.
Los resultados obtenidos luego de dos años de trabajo, son preocupantes, ya que los niveles observados son similares a los hallados en La Plata antes de las mejoras que se realizaron en la industria entre 2007 y 2010, cuando el equipo técnico observó un importante compromiso respiratorio, prevalencia de asma y alergias. En el caso de Bahía Blanca, el aporte vehicular resultó un peligroso agregado.

Que se halló
Los valores de compuestos orgánicos volátiles en La Plata de alcanos y compuestos aromáticos prevalecen, mientras compuestos clorados, cetonas y terpenos presentan niveles comparables entre La Plata y Bahía Blanca.
Otros resultados del trabajo han demostrado, en referencia a las zonas residenciales, que los niveles de alcanos y compuestos aromáticos son superiores en La Plata, invirtiéndose la relación para compuestos clorados, cetonas y terpenos. Respecto del material particulado, se observa en todas las zonas un predominio de los valores en Bahía Blanca por sobre los de La Plata.

Impactos en la salud
La contaminación del aire representa una amenaza importante para la salud pública en todo el mundo. La exposición crónica a contaminantes relacionados al tráfico vehicular y la industria química y petroquímica, tales como material particulado (MP), compuestos orgánicos volátiles (VOCs) y gases inorgánicos (SO2 y NOx), produce efectos adversos al desarrollo y la función pulmonar, además del incremento de la morbilidad respiratoria, expresada frecuentemente en término de diagnóstico de asma o enfermedad pulmonar obstructiva crónica (EPOC), e incremento de la mortalidad principalmente en niños. Los estudios de función pulmonar en niños de la región se realizaron mediante la prueba espirométrica, seleccionando al azar los niños entre 6 y 12 años. Se realizaron 211 espirometrías por triplicado, 17 espirometrías en Bahía Blanca y 194 en La Plata.

Qué puede hacerse para reducir el riesgo
Los niveles de VOCs y PM en la Plata disminuyeron sensiblemente en los últimos 4 años, luego de una efectiva acción del organismo de regulación, merced a los datos de varios años de monitoreo y la publicación de los datos obtenidos por parte del equipo de trabajo en La Plata.
En Bahía Blanca existe un acuerdo entre la Municipalidad y las empresas del Polo Petroquímico para monitorear la contaminación. Estos resultados muestran que los valores son importantes siendo necesario tomar medidas urgentes de protección para los habitantes.
Ante la ausencia de estadísticas oficiales, sería fundamental poder hacer más espirometrías para que los datos incrementen la validez estadística, así como nuevos monitoreos de material particulado. Esa combinación (espirometrías + material particulado) en La Plata permitió demostrar las consecuencias de la contaminación para la salud infantil, con estudios menos invasivos que las tomas en sangre.
El control de los niveles de material particulado es sumamente importante, dada la asociación directa entre éstos y el incremento tanto de enfermedades respiratorias como de mortalidad.
Las familias de los niños que participaron en este proyecto se han manifestado preocupadas, así como dispuestas a participar de todo cuanto pueda redundar en la mejoría de la salud y la calidad de vida de sus comunidades. BIOS agradece profundamente a todos ellos y al FPLA que posibilitó técnicamente el trabajo, y espera se asuman las responsabilidades y se realicen las acciones para solucionar el problema.

Contacto para notas:
Dr. Andrés Porta, BIOS – Doctor en Ciencias Bioquímicas, Profesor Adjunto Ordinario de Química Analítica, Investigador Independiente, CIC. Dir. del Laboratorio de Ingeniería Sanitaria, UNLP. (0221) 155341384



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