Living close to highways may contribute to a wide range of health problems including autism, cardiovascular diseases and asthma
Living close to fast lanes or highways is not a pleasant experience, especially if you consider the noise, air pollution and the fact that you won’t have much of privacy since many drivers (who are lost) will use your driveway to turn around.
Besides all these problems associated with living close to highways, recent studies show that living near freeways could be hazardous to your health.
According to the American Lung Association report for 2013, up to 40% of North American populations live close to a busy road. The report states how living or working 0.2 to 0.3 miles from a highway or a busy road is more dangerous than most people think.
In a paper published by the Health Effects Institute which examined more than 700 different studies around the world, researchers concluded that living close to freeways or busy roads can increase the risk of asthma in kids, lead to improper lung function and cause death from cardiovascular disease.
Here are the top health problems that are associated with living close to highways:
1. Improper lung function which is a major factor for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases:
According to a study published in the journals of Lancet, the researchers at Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California discovered that children who lived within 500 meters of a freeway since age 10 had problems in their lung function by the time they were 18 years old.
"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 and poor lung function in later adult life is known to be a major risk factor for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases." says the leading author of the study, W. James Gauderman, Ph.D.
According to Dr Gauderman , "Otherwise-healthy children who were non-asthmatic and non-smokers also experienced a significant decrease in lung function from traffic pollution. This suggests that all children, not just susceptible subgroups, are potentially affected by traffic exposure".
According to a study on 304 children in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento metropolitan areas, the researchers discovered that babies growing up in households that lived within 1,000 feet from freeways were twice more likely to develop autism compared to those who lived further away from freeways.
"It has been estimated that 11% of the U.S. population lives within 100 meters [328 feet] of a four-lane highway, so a causal link to autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders would have broad public health implications," the researchers say.
The air pollution is heavy even within 2,000-3,000 feet from highways and researchers found out that children of women who lived closest to highways during pregnancy are 86% more likely to develop autism than kids who are born further way from freeways. According to researchers, kids born from women who lived within 1,000 feet of a freeway were twice more likely to develop autism.
Asthma and breathing problems:
Studies show that children who live near a major highway are more likely to develop asthma or other respiratory problems. According to researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, living near a heavily congested highway can increase the risk of respiratory problems including asthma.
The study is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and the leading author of the study, Maria-Anna Vastardi, MD states that “Our participants were randomly recruited and we observed that the patients who reported asthma live significantly closer to the Gowanus Expressway, compared to the healthy controls who live in the same area, but at a longer distance from the Gowanus."
According to Dr. Vastardi, living close to freeways can increase the risk of developing breathing problems including asthma and vehicle emissions could increase the risk for developing inflammatory lung disease in adults.
According to another study by UCLA Center for health Policy Research, asthma rates are on rise in California and the condition affects low income families and kids. 4.9 million Californians suffer from respiratory problems and the rate of asthma has increased by 13% from the year 2001 to the year 2007. 12.9% of residents of low income communities in California have respiratory problems while asthma affects only 6% of wealthy residents in California.
The UCLA study also shows that children of low-income families with asthma end up missing twice as many days in school per year (due to asthma attacks) than children who come from families with higher income.
According to researchers, asthma affects poor communities since they are more likely to be living close to environmental pollutants from factories or freeways. “As a black person in America, I am twice as likely as a white person to live in an area where air pollution poses the greatest risk to my health,” says Majora Carter, who is currently the president of the Majora Carter Group. “I’m five times as likely to live within walking distance of a power plant.” (Source: Time.com: The Rich Are Different: More Money, Less Empathy)