Traffic fumes cause permanent lung dysfunction

Published: Monday 30 April 2007

traffic fumes decrease lung function among children and make the organs vulnerable to irreversible long-term damage, a new study has found. The study published in The Lancet (Vol 369) links local traffic fumes to lung development deficits.

Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California carried out the study on 3,677 children around 10 years of age in south California, usa. The researchers classified each and every child according to the regional air quality, and local air pollution levels. The study drew data from the Children's Health Study, which followed the youngsters over an eight-year study through school.

The children were given lung function tests every year, measuring the volume of air and the speed at which the children could exhale after a deep breath.The researchers found that children living within 500 m of the highway had substantially higher lung deficits by the end of the eight-year study, compared to children living 1,500 m or more from a similar road.

Furthermore, as the lung develops rapidly over this period, it puts children in a particularly vulnerable position; "Someone suffering a pollution-related deficit in lung function as a child will probably have less than healthy lungs all of his or her life," says a researcher.

The team says the study may have widespread implications. "In areas where population continues to grow, children are living or attending school near busy roadways. This may be harmful in the long run," says the study.

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