Living near busy roadways ups chances of allergic asthma

January 19, 2011, Johns Hopkins University

An international team of lung experts has new evidence from a study in shantytowns near Lima, Peru, that teens living immediately next to a busy roadway have increased risk of allergies and asthma. The odds can go up by 30 percent for developing allergies to dust mites, pet hairs and mold, and can double for having actual asthma symptoms, such as wheezing and using medications to help them breathe.

The study, to be published in the online Jan. 18, is believed to be the first to link heightened rates of allergic disease and exposure to traffic-related pollution as a possible reason for increased rates of along major transit routes. Previous studies in Europe and North America relied on self reports of or produced conflicting results on possible tie-ins with high levels of . Until now, experts say no study has looked at how busy roadways affect the allergic origins of asthma, a respiratory disease that afflicts some 17 million Americans, including some 5 million children.

Experts at Johns Hopkins who participated in the study also found that the risk of allergic disease, or atopy, and of having asthma among 725 teenagers, ages 13 through 15, was worst for those living immediately next to the busy road, where a steady stream of traffic across multiple lanes flowed unimpeded all day long. Atopy rates went up by 7 percent for every city block (approximately 300 feet) closer they lived to the road. For those who lived next to the road, the odds of having asthma were twice that of those who lived a quarter-mile (about four city blocks) away.

“Our study clearly shows why we need to protect respiratory health and plan future major roadways here or abroad away from residential areas and schools,” says senior study investigator and pulmonologist William Checkley, M.D., Ph.D. “We can also now try preventive strategies aimed at reducing allergic exposure near roadways to see if this lowers rates of asthma,” adds Checkley, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Checkley and lead study investigator Lauren Baumann, M.H.S., chose a poor district of Lima, called Pampas de San Juan de Miraflores, for their study because Peru has the highest rates of asthma symptoms among children in Latin America, at 26 percent. In addition, large numbers of shantytowns like San Juan de Miraflores have sprung up around the nation’s largest city within the last few decades, many with a single, congested and slow-moving main thoroughfare.

Baumann, a former Johns Hopkins graduate student in public health, says only the most-at-risk children were included in the study, pointing out that people who do not outgrow their asthma by their early teens are twice as likely to remain asthmatic through adulthood. The year-long study, begun in 2008, included home visits to measure lung function and environmental air pollutants.

“Family physicians and public health workers now know they need to more closely monitor children who live near major roadways for allergies and for the earliest signs of asthma,” says Checkley, who notes that his team next plans further studies on the underlying genetic profile of those at greater risk of atopy and asthma. “Our ultimate goal is to identify other key environmental stimuli or traffic-related pollutants that help trigger allergic disease, and then use our knowledge of how they work biologically to stop them before asthma sets in,” he says.

Funding support for the study was provided by the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health; the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, both members of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and the NIH-affiliated John E. Fogarty International Center for Advanced Study in the Health Science.

More information: www.jacionline.org/

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are not associated with risk of heart attacks

February 16, 2018
New research from the University of Southampton has found no association between the use of calcium or vitamin D supplementation and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

Women who clean at home or work face increased lung function decline

February 16, 2018
Women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning sprays or other cleaning products at home appear to experience a greater decline in lung function over time than women who do not clean, according to new research published ...

Study shows options to decrease risk of motor vehicle crashes for adolescent drivers

February 16, 2018
Adolescents who receive comprehensive and challenging on-road driving assessments prior to taking the license test might be protected from future motor vehicle crashes, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham study ...

Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

February 15, 2018
The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up dads, according to a study of Canadian families published Thursday.

Keeping an eye on the entire ageing process

February 15, 2018
Medical researchers often only focus on a single disease. As older people often suffer from multiple diseases at the same time, however, we need to rethink this approach, writes Ralph Müller.

Study suggests possible link between highly processed foods and cancer

February 14, 2018
A study published by The BMJ today reports a possible association between intake of highly processed ("ultra-processed") food in the diet and cancer.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TruthAboutMold
not rated yet Jan 19, 2011
Interesting study. For more information about the health effects of environmental contaminants, go to globalindoorhealthnetwork.com.

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.