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Traffic Congestion Bad for Babies' Lungs

Wheezing more common in infants from exhaust-infested neighborhoods

FRIDAY, July 29, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Babies living in neighborhoods plagued by "stop and go" traffic are at higher risk of wheezing, researchers report.

"Our study illustrates that living within a football field's distance of 'stop and go' traffic puts infants at a higher risk for wheezing. Traditional wisdom told us that [only] highway traffic was to blame. We now know that's not necessarily the case," study lead researcher Patrick Ryan of the University of Cincinnati, said in a prepared statement.

His team collected data on 622 infants over a four-year period and found that 17 percent of the infants who lived near areas of stop and go traffic suffered wheezing. They also found that rates of wheezing among infants who lived within 100 meters of stop and go traffic were twice that of infants who lived within 400 meters of interstates, and three times higher than unexposed infants.

Black infants who lived near stop and go traffic had the highest rate of wheezing -- 25 percent. A stop and go traffic area was defined as being within 100 meters of a bus or state route with a speed limit of 50 mph or less.

The findings, published in the August issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggest that the type of traffic and proximity to that traffic -- not just traffic volume -- influences infant wheezing.

"During the first year of life, an infant's lungs and immune system are still developing. Overexposure to harmful particulates at such a young age may play a role in the development of allergic conditions," Ryan said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about the health effects of air pollution.

SOURCE: University of Cincinnati, news release, July 22, 2005
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