Traffic-related air pollution a substantial public health concern

Traffic-related air pollution is increasingly shown to have negative health effects according to a growing body of epidemiologic evidence and is a substantial public health concern in Canada, argues a commentary published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Mounting evidence indicates a causal effect between exposure to air pollution from traffic and the development of asthma in children and adults. Diesel exhaust causes .

Despite generally good air quality in Canadian cities, approximately 21 000 people die prematurely from air pollution each year in Canada, about 9-fold more than the number killed in . About 10 million people—32% of the population of Canada—live within 500 m of highways or 100 m from major urban roads, areas in which they are exposed to elevated levels of traffic-related air pollution.

"This high prevalence of exposure, in addition to evidence of associated health problems, suggests that traffic-related air pollution is a substantial public health concern in Canada," writes Michael Brauer, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, BC, with coauthors.

The authors highlight four overlapping strategies with short- and long-term options to help mitigate the effects of traffic-related :

  • Reducing vehicle emissions: introducing programs to remove or retrofit high-emission vehicles; reducing traffic congestion; expanding infrastructure for electric cars
  • Modifying current infrastructure: limiting heavy truck traffic to specific routes; separating active commuting zones (e.g. cycle and walking routes) from busy roads
  • Better land-use planning and traffic management: locating buildings such as schools, daycares and retirement homes at least 150 m away from busy streets
  • Encouraging behavioural change: creating policies to reduce traffic congestion in specific areas and encouraging alternative commuting behaviours.

The authors cite growing evidence that indicates that these types of interventions are successful. For example, the introduction of a fee for drivers to enter a "congestion charge zone" in London, UK, reduced traffic volume and congestion that resulted in "an estimated gain of 183 years of life per 100 000 residents within the zone over a 10-year period."

"Although these interventions alone benefit health, combining strategies can result in more cost-effective policies and greater improvements to population health," the authors conclude.

More information: www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.121568

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Blending faith and science to combat obesity

1 hour ago

Science and religion may seem like uneasy partners at times, but when it comes to promoting healthy lifestyles, one UConn Health researcher has shown they can be an effective combination.

Research project puts stroke patients back on their feet

1 hour ago

Finding the will to exercise routinely can be challenging enough for most people, but a stroke presents even more obstacles. Yet aerobic exercise may be crucial for recovery and reducing the risk of another ...

Air quality and unconventional oil and gas sites

4 hours ago

Research suggesting air pollutants released by unconventional oil and gas production are well over recommended levels in the US is published today in the open access journal Environmental Health. High levels of benzene, hydrog ...

FDA cautions against 'undeclared' food allergens

16 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Some food labels may not reliably list all possible food allergens, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency added that these "undeclared allergens" are the leading cause ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.