Study: Proximity to Freeways Harms Children’s Lungs
California children who grew up within close proximity to a freeway are more likely to have impairments in lung development that increases the risk of heart disease and respiratory conditions later in life, according to a study to be published in The Lancet, the Los Angeles Times reports (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 1/26).
The study was conducted by a team of University of Southern California scientists who drew on 13 years of data from the state-funded Children's Health Study. More than 3,600 children participated in the research project for up to eight years.
Researchers examined the link between their exposure to traffic pollution at home and their lung development, measured by how much air the child could forcefully exhale (Bowman, Sacramento Bee, 1/26).
The study found that children by age 18 who lived within 500 yards of a freeway had a 3% deficit in the amount of air they could exhale and a 7% deficit in the rate at which it could be exhaled. The rates were compared with children who lived at least 1,500 yards from a freeway. The effect was independent of the overall pollution in their community.
However, children living near freeways in communities with high pollution rates had an average 9% deficit in the amount of air they could exhale (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 1/26). Such children are more likely to develop asthma and life-threatening respiratory problems, including a heart attack, starting as early as age 50, according to the Bee.
The study will be published Feb. 17 in the Lancet (Sacramento Bee, 1/26). Funding was provided by:
- California Air Resources Board;
- Environmental Protection Agency;
- Hastings Foundation;
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; and
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (Los Angeles Times, 1/26).