Toxic emissions from traffic are a significant public health concern, often ignored by transportation and urban planners
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Pollution from busy roads may cause just as many cases of chronic childhood asthma as passive smoking, according to new findings published this week in the European Respiratory Journal.
The research conducted in 10 European cities concludes that 14 percent of childhood asthma cased are linked with traffic related pollution, while the World Health Organization estimates that between 4 percent and 18 percent of asthma cases in children are linked to passive smoking.
Until now, traffic pollution was assumed to only trigger asthma symptoms and burden estimations did not account for chronic asthma caused by the specific range of toxicants that are found near heavily used roads along which many Europeans live.
“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,” said Dr. Laura Perez, of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. “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 researchers used a method known as population-attributable fractions to assess the impact of near-road traffic pollution. This calculates the proportional reduction in disease or death that would occur if exposure to a risk factor were reduced to a lower level.
The new research used data from existing epidemiological studies which found that children exposed to higher levels of near-road traffic-related pollution also had higher rates of asthma, even when taking into account a range of other relevant factors such as passive smoking or socioeconomic factors.
The researchers aimed to take these findings further and estimate how many asthma cases could be avoided if exposure was removed.