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Stop and Go Traffic Areas Worse for Babies with Asthma

Infants living near an area with stop and go bus and truck traffic have significantly higher rates of wheezing, a common symptom of asthma, according to new research published in the August 2005 Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (JACI), the peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI). Children unexposed to high traffic roads and bus routes did not have as high a frequency of wheezing as those that were exposed to high levels of traffic during day-to-day life.

Patrick H. Ryan, MS, and colleagues from the University of Cincinnati 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 bus routes. The children were all enrolled in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study. A “stop and go” traffic area was defined by researchers as an area within 100 meters (approximately 100 yards) of a bus or state route with a posted speed limit of 50 mph or less.

Results of the four-year study suggest that the effect of traffic on wheezing in children does not only have to do with the volume of traffic, it also has to do with the type of traffic and the distance a child is from the traffic. Previous air pollution studies have not addressed these factors in children.

During the study, researchers found that infants living within 100 meters of “stop and go” traffic wheezed twice as often as those living within 400 meters of interstates, and more than three times as often as infants living in unexposed areas, with African American infants living near “stop and go” traffic experiencing the highest wheezing rates at 25%.

This is the first epidemiologic study to examine the risk of wheezing in infants younger than one year who are exposed to varying types and amounts of city traffic. The study demonstrated that even within a city environment, the risk of wheezing varies with the type of distance and traffic.

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