marcovarro/Shutterstock

European researchers believe 14 percent of chronic childhood asthma can be blamed on living near busy roads.

Having your children live near a busy highway is kind of like keeping them penned in the smoking area of a Greyhound bus station, according to a new study.

European researchers applied a statistical technique known as "population-attributable fractions" to existing data to root out how much childhood asthma can be blamed on heavy traffic. Their conclusion: 14 percent of chronic asthma in kids is caused by car exhaust, which falls into the 4 to 18 percent bracket of childhood asthma cases resulting from exposure to second-hand smoke, as per World Health Organization estimates.

To come up with this concerning conclusion, the researchers examined health data in 10 European cities and ruled out contributing factors like chain-smoking parents and socioeconomic status. Here's the nut of their findings as reported by the European Lung Foundation:

Until now, traffic pollution was assumed to only trigger asthma symptoms and burden estimations did not account for chronic asthma caused by the specific range of toxicants that are found near heavily used roads along which many Europeans live....

Lead author, Dr Laura Perez at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, said: "Air pollution has previously been seen to trigger symptoms but this is the first time we have estimated the percentage of cases that might not have occurred if Europeans had not been exposed to road traffic pollution. In light of all the existing epidemiological studies showing that road-traffic contributes to the onset of the disease in children, we must consider these results to improve policy making and urban planning."

The full study will be coming out soon in the European Respiratory Journal in the midst of the European Union's celebration of the "Year of Air," a very necessary-sounding campaign to improve air quality across the continent.

Top photo courtesy of marcovarro on Shutterstock.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Charts

    The Evolution of Urban Planning in 10 Diagrams

    A new exhibit from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association showcases the simple visualizations of complex ideas that have changed how we live.

  2. photo: A Lyft scooter on the streets of Oakland in July.
    Transportation

    4 Predictions for the Electric Scooter Industry

    Dockless e-scooters swept cities worldwide in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, expect the battery-powered micromobility revolution to take a new direction.

  3. Life

    Can Toyota Turn Its Utopian Ideal Into a 'Real City'?

    The automaker-turned-mobility-company announced last week it wants to build a living, breathing urban laboratory from the ground up in Japan.

  4. photo: Dominque Walker, founder of Moms 4 Housing, n the kitchen of the vacant house in West Oakland that the group occupied to draw attention to fair housing issues.
    Equity

    A Group of Mothers, a Vacant Home, and a Win for Fair Housing

    The activist group Moms 4 Housing occupied a vacant home in Oakland to draw attention to the city’s affordability crisis. They ended up launching a movement.

  5. photo: a pair of homes in Pittsburgh
    Equity

    The House Flippers of Pittsburgh Try a New Tactic

    As the city’s real estate market heats up, neighborhood groups say that cash investors use building code violations to encourage homeowners to sell.  

×