Healthy Aging

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More Traffic Causes More Health Problems

Could the pollutants that we see and smell along our roadways affect our health? This question has been researched recently.

Health Effects Institute (HEI), a nonprofit corporation chartered in 1980 as an independent research organization to provide high-quality, impartial, and relevant science on the health consequences of air pollution commissioned a group of scientists to evaluate road traffic and public health. The group maintains objectivity through balanced funding from the federal government and automobile and energy corporations and other private advocacy groups.

The HEI scientists wrote the recently released report titled “Traffic-Related Air Pollution: A Critical Review of the Literature on Emissions, Exposure, and Health Effects.”

Emissions from exposures to busy roadways are associated with a number of health problems for people who live within two to three tenths of a mile of the road.

Findings show what anyone would imagine — it is not healthy for to live near heavily travelled roads. Pollution from gasses and unburned hydrocarbons can have negative consequences for people’s lungs and arteries. Among these pollutants are carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. Some pollutants cause oxidative stress associated with inflammatory processes, possibly resulting in allergic and structural tissue problems.

The effects of these pollutants can be worsened by time-activity patterns, weather conditions, vehicle size, driving patterns and land-use. In other words, larger, faster vehicles are worse for health. Also, the closer that a home is located to a major road and the longer that a person lives in the home, the more negative that health consequences can be.

Diseases most likely related to pollutants include asthma and asthmatic attacks. Data also suggests that cardiovascular disease resulting in cardiac rhythm disturbances are related to exposure.

The bottom line is that building roads for the purpose of higher speed and volume of traffic is detrimental to people’s health.

Scientists involved with the study did not examine health consequences for people who drive on these roads. Hopefully, more studies will be done to take a closer look at health affects for those of us who travel roads often.

The full report can be found at:  http://www.healtheffects.org/.

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Air Pollution

The health effects on people because of air pollution are numerous. Air pollution levels are associated with increased respiratory health problems, including asthma. According to the Healthy People 2010 report, each year in the United States:

  • Health costs of human exposure to outdoor air pollutants range from $40 to $50 billion.
  • An estimated 50,000 to 120,000 premature deaths are associated with exposure to air pollutants.
  • Each year, close to 5,000 people die of asthma.

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