January 29, 2007

Traffic pollution can stunt lung growth, study shows

Los Angeles, California – Children who live near a major highway are more likely to develop asthma and respiratory damage, and also risk stunted lung development, according to researchers at the University of Southern California (USC).

The study was performed by researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and will appear in the February 17 issue of the British medical journal The Lancet. It found that children who lived within 500 metres of a freeway since age 10 had substantial deficits in lung function by age 18, compared to children living at least 1,500 metres away.

More than 3,600 children were evaluated over a period of eight years, from around the age of 10 through high school graduation. Lung function was assessed by measuring how much the child could exhale after taking a deep breath, and how quickly that air can be exhaled. Lung function in children develops rapidly during adolescence, until they reach their late teens or early 20s. Previous studies have also demonstrated links between lung function growth and regional air quality.

Funding for the study came from the California Air Resources Board, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the Hastings Foundation.

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