Business, Economics and Jobs

Childhood asthma may be more closely linked to traffic fumes than previously believed


Fresh snow blankets the mountains behind the downtown skyline after a series of storms that hammered northern California delivered much needed precipitation to the Greater Los Angeles Area January 7, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. The American Lung Association said that Los Angeles, America's smoggiest city, reduced its pollution - helping push the country to the lowest level of air pollution in 10 years.


David McNew

There are a lot of kids in infamously smoggy Los Angeles with asthma—and a new University of Southern California study indicates that these rates are even worse for children who live nearby freeways. 

The new research, published Monday in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal in conjunction with Sonoma Technologies and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, found that about 8 percent of LA asthma cases (about 27,100) could be linked to kids residing within 75 meters (250 feet) of congested roads. 

The study also found that childhood asthma was linked to regional pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone, says Science Blog.

Read more from GlobalPost: Air pollution causes heart problems says new study on Beijing smog effects

California is currently implementing innovative (and controversial) cap-and-trade rules to cut down on greenhouse gases and emissions, and these rules could potentially also help children (and adults) suffering from respiratory problems.

The new measure, AB 32, hopes to reduce California's pollution levels to those of 1990 in eight years, partially by auctioning off credits to release greenhouse gases, says the Los Angeles Times. 

Further, the study provides some concrete evidence that new homes—especially those geared to families—shouldn't be built as close to major highways as they currently are. 

The researchers estimated that reducing kid's exposure to near-roadway pollution by a relatively modest 20 percent would mean 5,900 fewer cases of asthma in Los Angeles County. 

Read more from GlobalPost: US air pollution at lowest level in ten years

“Plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change offer an opportunity to develop ‘win-win’ strategies that will maximize the health benefits from reduction both of greenhouse gases and of air pollutants that directly harm children,” Rob McConnell, a University of Southern California professor of preventive medicine, told Science Blog. 

“There is also emerging evidence that other diseases may be caused or exacerbated by urban air pollution, including atherosclerosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and neurological disorders."

“Thus, policies to combat climate change may have near-term health benefits beyond reducing the burden of disease due to asthma.”