Death rate higher near busy roads
- While our solution would be to limit the number of cars on the road, I
suspect the 'engineered solution' will be to increase setbacks even further.
> By STEPHEN STRAUSS
> Friday, August 6, 2004 - Page A11
> Canadian scientists have found a startling rise in death rates associated
> with nothing more perilous than living within 50 metres of a major highway
> and 100 metres of a city road that carries a slew of polluting cars and
> While there have been a number of studies tying surges in deaths to city
> air pollution in general, what the researchers at McMaster University
> uncovered was a roughly 18-per-cent spike in mortality in the Hamilton
> area among people who lived adjacent to streets carrying 35,000 to 75,000
> vehicles daily.
> The rise in the pollution death rate did not come from asthma, emphysema
> or lung cancer but from heart attacks and other heart conditions.
> "Basically air pollution does not affect your lungs but your heart," is
> how Murray Finkelstein of McMaster's program in occupational heath and
> environmental medicine, and a co-author of the new study, describes what
> his group has found.
> The reason for the large heart-disease hit is still uncertain, but Dr.
> Finkelstein points to research in animals that suggests air pollution
> particles can irritate arteries and lead to their general hardening and
> Although the study, which was published in the July issue of the American
> Journal of Epidemiology, focused on the roads and highways of Hamilton,
> the researchers see no reason why the findings shouldn't apply to city
> dwellers perched above traffic surging along St. Lawrence Street in
> Montreal, Yonge Street in Toronto, or Hastings Street in Vancouver. Not to
> mention anyone whose dwelling is on the skirt of the traffic behemoth
> known as the Trans-Canada Highway, which, as it moves 400,000 people a day
> in some locations, is North America's second-busiest highway.
> What the researchers also did is translate the increased death rates,
> which have a relatively small impact on younger people, into something
> closer to an insurance company's life-expectancy table. They found there
> is a 2.5-year increase in age-related death levels for people whose
> dwellings are located cheek-to-jowl with heavy traffic.
> "Basically, that means your mortality pattern if you are 50 years old is
> the same as someone 52.5 years old who doesn't live on a busy road," said
> Dr. Finkelstein. What is even more sobering is the fact that the
> deadliness of living near major thoroughfares is not far off the
> life-shortening effects of such known killers as diabetes or chronic lung
> The McMaster scientists say their research leads to a very simple bit of
> advice for a health-conscious individual. "If you have a heart condition,
> I would advise not buying a place very close to major roadways or
> highways," said Michael Jerrett, a McMaster University geography professor
> who is another co-author on the study.
> He also suggests that susceptible people who live close to the busy
> thoroughfares consider air purification systems in their homes as a
> preventative act.
> There are some caveats to the new study, which replicates Dutch research
> published two years ago. There was no direct measure of how much higher
> the motor-vehicle related pollution was near major roads. This omission
> should be remedied next month when the McMaster group tracks
> road-pollution levels themselves.
> But there is also a class-related confounding factor to the data. Because
> of existing concerns over noise and pollution, Dr. Finkelstein says more
> poor people may be more likely to live near busy streets than rich people,
> and poor people have other behaviours -- smoking in particular -- that
> might kill them in larger numbers.