Speaking to Lusa agency, Inês Paciência, a researcher at the Porto institute said that the study, published in the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment, aimed to “evaluate the amount of vegetation and proximity to rivers and the sea around the houses of children and the development of allergic sensitisation”.
“The published studies on the impact of green spaces on the development of allergic sensitivity in childhood are not conclusive”, said Inês Paciência, first author of the article.
The investigation, which involved 730 children from the Generation XXI cohort (a longitudinal study by ISPUP) residing in the Porto Metropolitan Area, was divided into two different approaches.
"On the one hand, we evaluated the amount of vegetation and the proximity to rivers and the sea over time, from the time the children were born to the age of 10 and, on the other hand, we evaluated the allergic sensitivity of children at 10 years of age", she clarified.
In the case of green and blue spaces, the researchers used satellite images and the water atlas, respectively, and in the assessment of the children's allergic sensitivity, they used a physical and a clinical assessment (collection of blood samples).
“We found that children who live in an area or area with a greater amount of vegetation in the 500 meters around their homes have less allergic sensitisation compared to those who live in an area with less vegetation,” she said.
According to the researcher, of the 730 children involved in the study "40% had allergic sensitisation".
“The greater the amount of vegetation, the less likely these children are to develop allergic sensitisation,” she explained.
Despite being one of the research objectives, the ISPUP team was unable to correlate the existence of blue spaces around the children's homes with the development of allergic sensitisation.
“Effectively, we didn't see an association that was significant. Unlike the green areas, in relation to the blue areas, we can't see if the children use and look for these spaces to spend some time”, she revealed.
Stressing that the “presence of green areas has a protective effect” on children and given the “growing increase in allergic and respiratory diseases”, Inês Paciência defended the need for urban planning to focus on the construction of these spaces close to residential areas.
“One of the messages of this study is the promotion of the existence of green spaces in residential areas. It is also crucial to involve citizens in maintaining and promoting them”, she added.