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Heavy vehicle traffic is related to wheeze among schoolchildren: a population-based study in an area with low traffic flows

Author(s): Andersson Martin | Modig Lars | Hedman Linnea | Forsberg Bertil | Rönmark Eva

Journal: Environmental Health
ISSN 1476-069X

Volume: 10;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 91;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Abstract Background An association between traffic air pollution and respiratory symptoms among children has been reported. However, the effects of traffic air pollution on asthma and wheeze have been very sparsely studied in areas with low traffic intensity in cold climate with poor dispersion. We evaluated the impact of vehicle traffic on childhood asthma and wheeze by objective exposure assessment. Methods As a part of the Obstructive Lung Disease in Northern Sweden (OLIN) studies, a questionnaire was sent to the families of all children attending first or second grade in Luleå (72,000 inhabitants) in Northern Sweden in 2006. The age of the children was 7-8 years and the participation rate was 98% (n = 1357). Skin prick tests were performed in 1224 (89%) children. The home addresses were given geographical coordinates and traffic counts were obtained from the local traffic authorities. A proximity model of average daily traffic and average daily heavy vehicle traffic within 200 meters from each participant's home address was used. The associations between traffic exposure and asthma and wheeze, respectively, were analysed in an adjusted multiple logistic regression model. Results Exposure to high traffic flows was uncommon in the study area; only 15% of the children lived within 200 meters from a road with a traffic flow of ≥8000 vehicles per day. Living closer than 200 meters from a road with ≥500 heavy vehicles daily was associated with current wheeze, odds ratio 1.7 (confidence interval 1.0-2.7). A dose-response relation was indicated. An increased risk of asthma was also seen, however not significant, odds ratio 1.5 (confidence interval 0.8-2.9). Stratified analyses revealed that the effect of traffic exposure was restricted to the non-sensitized phenotype of asthma and wheeze. The agreement between self-reported traffic exposure and objective measurements of exposure was moderate. Conclusions This study showed that already at low levels of exposure, vehicle traffic is related to an increased risk of wheeze among children. Thus, the global burden of traffic air pollution may be underestimated.
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