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Road-traffic pollution and asthma – using modelled exposure assessment for routine public health surveillance

Author(s): Ferguson Elspeth | Maheswaran Ravi | Daly Mark

Journal: International Journal of Health Geographics
ISSN 1476-072X

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 24;
Date: 2004;
Original page

Abstract Asthma is a common disease and appears to be increasing in prevalence. There is evidence linking air pollution, including that from road-traffic, with asthma. Road traffic is also on the increase. Routine surveillance of the impact of road-traffic pollution on asthma, and other diseases, would be useful in informing local and national government policy in terms of managing the environmental health risk. Several methods for exposure assessment have been used in studies examining the association between asthma and road traffic pollution. These include comparing asthma prevalence in areas designated as high and low pollution areas, using distance from main roads as a proxy for exposure to road traffic pollution, using traffic counts to estimate exposure, using vehicular miles travelled and using modelling techniques. Although there are limitations to all these methods, the modelling approach has the advantage of incorporating several variables and may be used for prospective health impact assessment. The modelling approach is already in routine use in the United Kingdom in support of the government's strategy for air quality management. Combining information from such models with routinely collected health data would form the basis of a routine public health surveillance system. Such a system would facilitate prospective health impact assessment, enabling policy decisions concerned with road-traffic to be made with knowledge of the potential implications. It would also allow systematic monitoring of the health impacts when the policy decisions and plans have been implemented.

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