Living Near Freeways Hurts Kids' Lungs

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Living Near Freeways Hurts Kids' Lungs

Living Near Freeways Hurts Kids' Lungs
Exposure to emissions could lead to respiratory problems later, experts say.

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

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FRIDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Children growing up alongside freeways risk having their lung development impaired, which can increase the likelihood of serious respiratory diseases later in life, researchers report.

Other studies have shown that children living next to highways are more likely to develop respiratory problems, such as asthma. But this is the first study to show that long exposure to car and truck exhaust actually affects the growth of the lungs, and hence their capacity.

The report is published in the Jan. 26 online issue of The Lancet.

"Exposure from tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles potentially carries chronic health risks to children's lung development," said lead researcher W. James Gauderman, an assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. "We found that kids who live closer to freeways had significantly less lung capacity, compared with kids who lived further from freeways."

In the study, Gauderman and his colleagues followed 3,677 children for eight years, tracking their lung development. The children were 10 at the start of the study, and came from 12 southern California communities. The air quality differed in each community.

The researchers found that lung growth in children who lived within 500 meters of a freeway (about a quarter of a mile) was significantly less than children who lived 1,500 meters or more from a freeway.

Gauderman's group also found that exposure to freeways and regional air pollution had negative and independent effects on the growth of lung function. In addition, there was a significant drop in percentage of expected lung function among 18-year-olds who lived within 500 meters of a freeway.

Gauderman thinks that these effects on lung development are serious. "Lung capacity is something that once a child is done growing, that amount of lung capacity they have is carried with them throughout their adult life," he explained.

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