Living farther away from the highway may not be as healthy as people think.
UC environmental health researchers
recently found that 17 percent of infants living near "stop and go"
traffic experienced wheezing.
As the studyÕs lead author Patrick Ryan
explains, "stop and go" is defined as traffic within about a football
fieldÕs length (100 yards) of a bus or state route with a posted speed
of less than 50 miles an hour.
Published in the Journal of Allergy and
Clinical Immunology, this is the first study of its kind to analyze the
effects of "stop and go" bus and diesel traffic on infant respiratory
health versus regular highway traffic.
"During the first year of life, an
infantÕs lungs and immune system are still developing," says Ryan.
"Overexposure to harmful particulates at such a young age may play a
role in the development of allergic conditions."
Researchers tracked the respiratory
health of 622 infants living near three traffic conditions: highway
traffic, "stop and go" traffic and areas unexposed to major roads or
Ryan and his team found that infants
living within 100 yards of "stop and go" traffic wheezed twice as often
as those living within about 400 yards of interstate highways, and more
than three times as often as unexposed children.
African-American infants living near "stop and go" traffic experienced the highest wheezing rate--25 percent.
"Traditional wisdom told us that highway traffic was to blame," says Ryan. "We now know thatÕs not necessarily the case."
Earlier research has shown that diesel
exhaust particles (DEP), breathable particles able to absorb and
transport proteins, aggravate rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma symptoms.
According to the Ohio Environmental Council, 23 percent of Cincinnati
residents live in areas of elevated DEP exposure, deemed "hot spots."
This year, U.S. Senator George Voinovich
(R-Ohio) introduced the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, an effort to
improve air standards through diesel engine retrofits.
"Our findings reinforce the need to
control diesel exhaust emissions," says epidemiologist Grace LeMasters,
PhD, UC professor of environmental health and principal investigator of
Infant wheezing is just one part of the
long-term Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study
(CCAAPS), an effort funded by the National Institutes of Health to
analyze environmental factors that may place children at risk for
developing allergies and/or asthma.