Physical Los Angeles

Living near freeways is not good

Children who grow up close to busy highways "have significant impairments in the development of their lungs that can lead to respiratory problems for the rest of their lives," the Times' reports from a USC investigation that is called the largest and longest study of its kind. The research in the current issue of The Lancet, says science writer Thomas Maugh III, is part of an ongoing study of the effects of air pollution on children's respiratory health. Previous findings have detailed "how smog can stunt lung growth and how living close to freeways can increase the risk of children being diagnosed with asthma."

By their 18th birthday, the study found, children who lived within 500 yards of a freeway had a 3% deficit in the amount of air they could exhale and a 7% deficit in the rate at which it could be exhaled compared with children who lived at least 1,500 yards, or nearly a mile, from a freeway. The effect was independent of the overall pollution in their community....

The most severe impairment was observed in children living near freeways in the communities with the highest average pollution Upland, Mira Loma, Riverside and Long Beach. Those children had an average 9% deficit in the amount of air they could expel from the lungs.

[snip]

The finding is important "because it shows that within communities, some children are at higher risk than others," Dr. Thomas Sandstrom and Dr. Bert Brunekreef wrote in an editorial accompanying the paper. "Thus, environmental equity is an issue of local rather than regional dimensions."

Just think of how many homes and schools you see right next to freeways here.


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