Shutterstock

Another reason to worry if you live near a highway.

There's a pretty prolific literature on the harmful health impacts of auto pollution. It's been linked to severe heart attacks, to atherosclerosis, to higher rates of asthma among children who might as well be immersed in second-hand smoke.

As a health concern endemic to urban environments, air pollution and its consequences rank right up there with the rise of obesity and its related uptick in diabetes. Now, it turns out the two problems may also be intertwined. New research [PDF] published in the journal Diabetologia found that children growing up in areas exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollutants had higher levels of insulin resistance, one precursor to diabetes.

The German research team collected blood samples from nearly 400 10-year-old German children, most of them in Munich, and analyzed auto emissions around the home addresses where the children were born (the study controlled for socio-economic status, birthweight, Body Mass Index, and second-hand smoke in the home). For every 500 meters a child lived closer to the nearest major road, insulin resistance increased by 7 percent by the time they were 10. As the researchers write:

Given the ubiquitous nature of air pollution and the high incidence of insulin resistance in the general population, the associations examined here may have potentially important public health effects despite the small/moderate effect sizes observed.

The study is the first of its kind to connect long-term exposure to traffic-related pollution with insulin resistance in children. And it raises a couple of questions researchers may be able to answer as the subjects of this study age: What happens when children move away from high-traffic neighborhoods? Do the effects remain with them even into adulthood?

Top image: ssuaphotos/Shutterstock

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    How Australia Conquered Guns, and Why America Can't

    Gun control advocates point to Australia for inspiration in ending gun violence. The Australian Ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, thinks they should stop.

  2. A family embraces as they say goodbye after a visit at San Quentin state prison in California.
    Life

    Where American Kids Are In Crisis

    Kids repeatedly exposed to violence, homelessness, and addiction are more likely to carry the long-term effects into adulthood. A new report breaks down the geographic and racial distribution of this trauma.

  3. Transportation

    The Attainable Wonders of Wakandan Transit

    Why can’t we have the vibranium-powered passenger trains of the Black Panther universe?

  4. A sculpture of the Airbnb logo is pictured.
    Life

    Airbnb and the Unintended Consequences of 'Disruption'

    Tech analysts are prone to predicting utopia or dystopia. They’re worse at imagining the side effects of a firm's success.

  5. POV

    What It Would Actually Take to Fund Infrastructure

    Commentators have broadly agreed Trump’s infrastructure proposal is not nearly enough. Here’s a blueprint for how to do better.