Hotline, Fall 2003
by Marilyn Skolnick, GASP Board Member
It is not a trivia question or a riddle. Our beloved car has many attributes that are comparable to a polluting smokestack. After learning what my car does to the environment, I don’t think that I can look at it in the same way ever again.
Peer reviewed studies have concluded that there is a link between traffic related air pollution and health risks. Any time a highway is expanded in an urban area where there are more than 150,000 vehicles a day, the studies show that we must consider health risks. The following studies have been compiled by The Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago.
1) Traffic Increased Cancer-Causing Pollution Levels at Tollbooth
This study published in the Journal of Air & Waste Management in 2003 indicates that there is a “significant association between vehicle traffic and curbside concentrations of the carcinogens benzine, 1,3-butadiene, and particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).” The study provides a model for estimating curbside pollution levels associated with traffic that may be relevant to exposures in the urban environment.
2) Increasing Public Transportation and Cutting Traffic Reduces Asthma Attacks
A study reported in the 2001 Journal of the American Medical Association found that increasing public transportation as well as other traffic control measures during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics reduced ozone concentrations by 28%, reduced acute asthma attacks by up to 44% and reduced morning peak traffic by 22%.
3) Truck Traffic Linked to Childhood Asthma Hospitalizations
A study conducted in Erie County, New York (excluding Buffalo) found that children living in neighborhoods with heavy truck traffic within 220 yards of their homes had increased risks of asthma hospitalization.
4) Fine Particulate Matter Linked to Lung Cancer, Cardiopulmonary Mortality
A study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that day-to-day exposure to fine particulate matter, a major component of diesel exhaust, increased the risk of various adverse health effects. Each 10 microgram/meter elevation in fine particulate air pollution leads to an 8% increased risk of lung cancer deaths, a 6% increased risk of cardiopulmonary mortality and a 4% increased risk of death from general causes.
5) People Who Live Near Freeways Exposed to 25 Times More Soot Particle Pollution
Studies that were conducted near Interstates 405 and 710 in Southern California found that ultra-fine particulates in the air were about 25 times more concentrated near the highways and that pollution levels gradually decrease back to normal (background) levels around 330 yards, downwind from the highway. The study notes that motor vehicles are the most significant source of ultra-fine particles, which have been linked to increases in mortality and morbidity.
6) Children Living Near Busy Roads More Likely to Develop Leukemia, Cancer
A study conducted in 2000 in Denver showed that children living within 250 yards of streets or highways with 20,000 vehicles per day are six times more likely to develop all types of cancer and eight times more likely to get leukemia. It suggested that volatile organic compound pollution from the roadway may be the cancer promoter causing the problem.
7) Motor Vehicle Pollution Dominates Cancer Risk from Air Pollution
The most comprehensive study of urban toxic air pollution ever undertaken shows that motor vehicles and other mobile sources of air pollution are the predominant source of cancer-causing air pollutants in Southern California. The study showed that about 90% of the cancer risk from toxic air pollution comes from motor vehicles.
While the highway builders claim that they are helping economic growth, it is in the hospitals where the jobs are created (where the illnesses they cause are treated).
To get contact information for the people who published these studies, please contact the GASP Office.