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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Developing countries feeling the effects of increased traffic-related pollution

Studies of proximity to major roadways and asthma symptoms in urban environments are demonstrating that there is a significant relationship between the two. There are some reports that traffic pollution also affects FEV1. For the most part, these studies have measured pollution effects from multiple traffic networks, such as mass transit, in developed countries. Few studies in developing countries, with a focus on the impact of individual roadways, have been attempted.

Peru has the highest reported prevalence of childhood asthma symptoms in Latin America, and its capital, Lima, is representative of rapid urban development and expansion. In this month’s issue, Baumann et al. (J Allergy Clin Immunol 2011; 127:875-882) examine the effect of a single, high traffic road in a shanty town outside of Lima, Peru. They evaluate current asthma symptoms, pollution inside and outside the home, and allergen sensitivity as a marker of atopy.

The authors find asthma symptoms and atopy are inversely correlated to proximity to the high traffic road that runs through the shanty town. Airflow limitation was also negatively correlated to roadway proximity, but only in girls. The authors report no increase in airway inflammation or indoor pollution in homes closer to the road. Interestingly, they did find that greater than half the children that participated were atopic, with 23% testing positive to 3 or more allergens. The authors note that theirs is the first epidemiologic report correlating proximity to a roadway and atopy risk.

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