Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Check the sidebar

For a new link, to the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health. Doug Brugge, of Tufts University School of Medicine, is the PI for this 5-year community based participatory research study of the health effects of air pollution from major highways. (YT has a little piece of it, having to do with how culture and ethnicity are related to people's perceptions of environmental risks.)

It's a scandal that you probably don't know this, but the ultrafine hydrocarbon particles that condense out of motor vehicle exhaust are very damaging to your health -- and not just your lungs, but your cardiovascular system as well. These are particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter, that can pass through the lungs into the bloodstream. They disappear with a few hundred yards of the road, but near major highways, there can be very high concentrations -- and people live there, work there, sometimes there are parks there. Next to the highway is a very popular place to put public housing developments. There are other pollutants from motor vehicle exhaust as well, of course, that you don't want to be breathing either, but this appears to be about the worst.

We'll be monitoring the air at very specific locations -- which most studies of this problem don't do, they generally look at broad areas such as census tracts -- and sampling people who live near the highway, and elsewhere in the city, asking them about their health, where they spend their time so we can get a good estimate of their exposure, and even taking blood samples and other physical measurements from people so we can understand more about how this kind of pollution causes disease. It will be a while before we have any results, but this is one of the ways in which your tax dollars get invested in public health research. It would never happen if the federal government didn't pay for it, so keep that in mind when you go to the teabag party.

4 comments:

kathy a. said...

very interesting study. it's true that public housing tends to be put where nobody else will live, but at least in CA, there are also large tracts of townhouses and such that have sprung up along major highways, as affordable middle-class housing.

the study made me think of other studies about lead pollution, which i think ended up the big switch to unleaded. there is still soil contamination near highways, too. i didn't look too deeply, but here is an interesting discussion: http://nepa.fhwa.dot.gov/ReNEPA/ReNepa.nsf/discussionDisplay?Open&id=8DA32CAC772BFD338525733E00017307&Group=Hazardous%20Materials%20and%20Solid%20Waste&tab=DISCUSSION

C. Corax said...

Will you break down by sex, as well? I believe I read it here first that women suffer a greater negative effect from highway pollution than do men.

stephanie.herz said...

this is so true! I live about 150 yards from a state highway that is heavily traveled and every time I dust the windowsills there is a good deal of black "particulate matter" accumulated there. Every single household with residents who've lived for 10 years or more in my immediate neighborhood has had an occurence of cancer, mostly women but some men and several pets as well (there are at least 10cases that I know of). I've often wondered if this is statistically unusual or since I've lived here about 9 years, should I be thinking of moving soon...

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