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Busy highways are loud, frustrating and maybe a health hazard

Living near congested roadways may cause asthma in adults.

Living near a loud and congested roadway may present a number of minor annoyances and a few bad nights of sleep. But, a new study shows that having a home next to a highway may also be a health hazard.

Researchers at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center and the Lutheran Medical Center of Brooklyn conducted a random survey that found an increased prevalence of asthma in people living closest to the oft-gridlocked Gowanus Expressway that runs through New York City.

Researchers studied 62 adults from the Lutheran Medical Center, 45 of whom had asthma or other respiratory diseases, and 17 who didn't as a control group. All of the participants lived in the same Brooklyn neighborhood.

The study, which was published in the latest edition of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggests that emissions from highway traffic contributes to the development of asthma in adults, but not seasonal allergies.

Inflammatory lung disease is another potential risk associated with living near highways according to the report.

SUNY's Dr. Anna-Maria Vastardi, a first-year fellow at the school, presented the findings of the study at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Orlando, Florida.

The study didn't focus on children, though recent reports have found a higher percentage of urban kids suffer from asthma and allergies than those who grow up in rural communities.

Poor air quality has long been associated with respiratory health, and congested urban areas have higher levels of toxins than in the countryside. City dwellers should at least aim for clean air indoors to prevent the development of asthma and to eliminate the presence of triggers by using a HEPA air filter or an air conditioner to keep the air clean. 

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