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Vehicle-driven pollution emissions & severe health damages among children

For some reason – it may be the near universal introduction of unleaded gasoline in most countries – the role of vehicular emissions on human health has been deemphasised in many environmental economics discussion.  Of course we all know about the terrible air pollution problems in the mega-cities of the developing world but these aberrant situations don’t affect us in the West, do they?

Indeed they do.  This is not a publication I consult every week but its current issue has some interesting content:

Recent epidemiological research suggests that near road traffic-related pollution may cause chronic disease, as well as exacerbate related pathologies, implying that the entire “chronic disease progression” should be attributed to air pollution, no matter what the proximate cause was. We estimated the burden of childhood asthma attributable to air pollution in 10 European cities by calculating the number of cases of 1) asthma caused by near road traffic-related pollution, and 2) acute asthma events related to urban air pollution levels. We then expanded our approach to include coronary heart diseases in adults.

Derivation of attributable cases required combining concentration-response function (CRF) between exposures and the respective health outcome of interest (obtained from published literature), an estimate of the distribution of selected exposures in the target population, and information about the frequency of the assessed morbidities.

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. Without this assumption, only 2% of asthma symptoms were attributable to air pollution. Similar patterns were found for coronary heart diseases in older adults.

Pollutants along busy roads are responsible for a large and preventable share of chronic disease and related acute exacerbation in European urban areas.

Try to keep kids away from major motorways and certainly avoid having them live next to one if it can be avoided.

It isn’t just kids either. The whole population experiences damages. In the UK air pollution is claimed to reduce average lifespans by 7-8 months and to shorten the lives of those over 50 by 3 years due to higher incidence of heart disease and respiratory problems.  Not a minor issue at all.


4 comments to Vehicle-driven pollution emissions & severe health damages among children

  • rog

    In addition to fuel based contaminants is the role that dust derived from traffic plays – this can be derived from tyres, brakes, road surface incl paint, diesel fumes – the American Lung Association has plenty of evidence

  • conrad

    There used to be horrible statistics about this when I lived in HK. Basically, a generation of kids with serious lung problems. Presumably this is true for the rest of Asia.

  • John H.

    It also impacts on adults- diabetes, heart disease, and the results of an Australian study prompted the authors to advise pregnant women to avoid main roads. A recent study concluded it is as bad as the effects of passive smoking. I would say worse than that. Constant irritation by pollutants drives inflammation and over the long term this can pave the way for all manner of problems. Diesel exhaust is particularly worrying because the particles from that may even move from nasal cavity, via the olfactory axons, directly into the brain. Some animal studies point to this and the particles don’t just stay in the olfactory bulb, moving to other regions of the CNS.

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