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. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  2. Smoke from the fires hangs over Brazil.
    Environment

    Why the Amazon Is on Fire

    The rash of wildfires now consuming the Amazon rainforest can be blamed on a host of human factors, from climate change to deforestation to Brazilian politics.

  3. a photo of a tiny house in Oregon
    Design

    How Amazon Could Transform the Tiny House Movement

    Could the e-commerce giant help turn small-home living from a niche fad into a national housing solution?

  4. Maps

    The Children’s Book Map That Led Me Out of Depression

    As a child, I loved the fantastical lands from The Phantom Tollbooth. As a troubled college student, I used them as a roadmap to self-acceptance.

  5. Graduates react near the end of commencement exercises at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S.
    Life

    Where Do College Grads Live? The Top and Bottom U.S. Cities

    Even though superstar hubs top the list of the most educated cities, other cities are growing their share at a much faster rate.

×