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Death rate higher near busy roads

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  • Lanyon, Ryan
    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. -RL
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 9, 2004
      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.


      > http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20040806/HH
      > IGHWAY06//?query=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
      > trucks.
      > 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
      > thickening.
      > 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
      > disease.
      > 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.
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