Road traffic pollution just as dangerous as secondhand smoke
Recent epidemiological research suggests that near road traffic-related pollution may cause chronic disease, as well as exacerbates related pathologies, implying that the entire “chronic disease progression” should be attributed to air pollution, no matter what the proximate cause was, according to a new research led by Dr. Laura Perez at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, according to the study’s abstract.
The findings of this new study are equal to the burden linked to secondhand smoke. The World Health Organization estimates that between 4% and 18% of asthma cases in children are linked to passive smoking.
To estimate the burden of childhood asthma attributable to air pollution in 10 European cities, the researchers calculated the number of cases; asthma caused by near road traffic-related pollution and acute asthma events related to urban air pollution levels and then expanded the calculations to include coronary heart disease in adults, then calculated these results even further to determine how many asthma cases could be avoided if exposure was removed.
The results revealed exposure to roads with high vehicle traffic, a proxy for near road traffic-related pollution, accounted for 14% of all asthma cases. When a causal relationship between near road traffic-related pollution and asthma is assumed, 15% of all episodes of asthma symptoms were attributable to air pollution. Similar patterns were found for coronary heart diseases in older adults.
The findings also take into account differences in the health of the overall population in different cities.
The researchers write “Pollutants along busy roads are responsible for a large and preventable share of chronic disease and related acute exacerbation in European urban areas.”
In closing Dr. Perez stated "Air pollution has previously been seen to trigger symptoms but this is the first time we have estimated the percentage of cases that might not have occurred if Europeans had not been exposed to road traffic pollution. In light of all the existing epidemiological studies showing that road-traffic contributes to the onset of the disease in children, we must consider these results to improve policy making and urban planning."
The findings, published online today (22 March 2013) ahead of print in the European Respiratory Journal
This is not the only study that has linked air traffic pollution to childhood asthma.
A study last year revealed that at least eight percent of more than 300,000 cases of childhood asthma in Los Angeles County can be attributed to traffic related pollution at homes within 250 feet of busy roadways. The study appeared in September 2012 online edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Health Perspectives.
In 2004, results from the Vesta case-control study suggest that traffic related pollutants might have contributed to the asthma epidemic that has taken place during the past decades among children.
In 2010, researchers from the he Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) found Traffic-related pollution exposure at school and homes may both contribute to the development of asthma.
More information on childhood asthma can be viewed online at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.