Friday, August 24, 2007

At Risk: High-Traffic Areas Tied to Children's Asthma Risk

By ERIC NAGOURNEY - The New York Times - May 9, 2006
Children who live near busy roads are more likely to have symptoms of asthma than those who do not, a study of more than 5,000 children in Southern California has found.

The study, which appears in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that children who lived within 250 feet of major roads had a 50 percent higher risk of having had asthma symptoms in the past year.

The findings, researchers say, suggest that major sources of air pollution like highways should not be the only source of concern.

"At this point, there is enough evidence that there may be a problem with local roads that we ought to think about where we do new construction," said the lead author, Dr. Rob McConnell of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

The researchers found that the asthma risk decreased to normal for children living about 600 feet or more away from a busy road.

The findings were based on a study involving 5- to 7-year-old children in 13 communities. Their families were asked to complete surveys about the children's health. The researchers then charted the answers about asthma against the location of the families' homes.

When it came both to having a history of asthma and to having symptoms currently, the closer a busy roadway, the worse the problem, especially for girls.

The greatest risk was found in children who had lived near busy roads since before age 2, suggesting they might have been exposed to pollutants in infancy or while their mothers were pregnant.

While it is unclear what people who live near roads can do to reduce their risk, Dr. McConnell said some communities had begun passing laws intended to keep new schools farther from busy roads. Communities should also think about where they place their playgrounds, he said.
SOURCE: New York Times

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