STEP is a community group dedicated to improving transportation in Somerville, MA. We advocate for the Green Line extension, a more livable city, and public health issues.
“New evidence of the dangers of living near highways” (Boston Globe)
A new study of Boston residents who live or spend a significant amount of time near Interstate 93 and the Massachusetts Turnpike has found that their exposure to microscopic metals and chemicals spewed from vehicles increases their chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
STEP has been a long-time partner in CAFEH, the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health Study, which serves as the larger umbrella for 5 related community-based participatory research (CBPR) air pollution studies. Their new report, “Improving Health in Communities Near Highways: Design Solutions from a Charrette,” summarizes effective design approaches to reducing near highway residents’ exposure to traffic-related air pollution. Specific locations in Chinatown and Somerville are used as case studies.
A research team led by Fabio Caiazzo of MIT recently quantified the impact of air pollution and premature death in the United States for the year 2005. They found that road-related particulate matter was responsible for about 19% more deaths, nationwide, than car crashes. Read all about it.
Our own Wig Zamore adds:
Unfortunately, the air pollution death valuation is WAY LOW because only traffic contributions to regional, as opposed to local, pollution are counted. Experienced and well regarded southern California environmental health scientists will soon publish a heath impact assessment study suggesting that in 2035 local traffic related air pollution in southern California will be responsible for as many deaths per year as total regional fine particle pollution. Given how much smaller the near roadway population is this is a stunning outcome!
This suggests that the total local and regional traffic pollution deaths are about three times what this article suggests. In general the colder a region is, the higher the ratio of local traffic emissions effects to regional traffic emission effects. Cold weather drives higher local primary pollution concentrations and gradients, warm weather drives higher regional secondary pollution concentrations.
Two recent independent studies now suggest that simply living near major roadways and breathing harmful emissions from motor vehicles might be an even greater threat to U.S. health than accidents are. Read more.
Science Daily: “Near-Roadway Air Pollution a Major Contributor to Asthma in Los Angeles County, Research Finds”
“Our findings suggest that there are large and previously unappreciated public health consequences of air pollution in Los Angeles County and probably other metropolitan areas with large numbers of children living near major traffic corridors,” said Rob McConnell, professor of preventive medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Tufts Medicine Magazine: “Big Road Blues: Living Near a Highway Can Be Bad for Your Health in a Million Small Ways” (PDF)
“The goal of the study, expected to wrap up a year from now, is to understand how vehicular pollution affects the health of people living close to a highway.”
“‘When it comes to air pollution, the main thing that really affects people is particulates – not gases,’ says Doug Brugge, the study’s principal investigator and a professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts. ‘The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that they cause 80,000 or 100,000 deaths a year in the United States, and maybe four million or more worldwide.'”
Boston Globe: “Public transit ills called a health issue”
“You can get a significant amount of your recommended daily physical activity by simply walking to the local bus or T stop,” said Maddie Ribble, director of policy and communications for the Massachusetts Public Health Association.
Boston Globe: “Air pollution tied to stroke risk”
Car exhaust and other air pollution, even at levels considered safe by federal regulations, may substantially increase the risk of a stroke, a research team from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reported yesterday.