That Long and Dusty Road

Living near a high-traffic roads increases risk of asthma symptoms

(RxWiki News) Past research has shown that living close to busy roadways increases the risk of asthma in developed countries. Now, a new study shows that the same holds true Peru, a developing country.

Researchers from Peru, Mexico, and the United States wanted to find out how the distance from a busy avenue affected asthma symptoms and respiratory health of teenagers living in a shantytown on the outskirts of Lima, Peru. The researchers enlisted 725 teenagers from 13 to 15 years of age. The teenagers were given a survey on asthma symptoms, other aspects of respiratory health, and skin allergies.

The researchers found that the teenagers who lived within 100 meters of the main avenue were twice as likely to develop symptoms of asthma compared to those who lived 384 meters or more away from the busy road. They also found that teenagers living closer to the main avenue faced a greater risk of having allergic reactions than their counterparts living farther away.

Previous studies have identified a relationship between traffic pollutants and airborne allergens. The combination of the two may cause the immune system to react disproportionately to the allergens, thus causing symptoms of asthma.

The authors assert that the increased risk of asthma and allergies from living close to a high-traffic-density roadway suggests that steps should be taken to regulate pollutants in the periphery shantytowns of Lima. Doing so might reduce the number of teenagers suffering from the burdens of asthma symptoms and allergic reactions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 9 percent (7.1 million) of US children currently have asthma, but it is not known where they live in relation to the road.

The study on Peruvian teenagers is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Review Date: 
February 10, 2011