Is your city allowing homes and schools dangerously close to highways & risking the health of you and your children?

Photo Source:MIT

Is your city allowing developers to build schools, housing, and day care centers near busy highways?  Because of the health risks of living close to a highway can be high, this is a very dangerous practice.

Even in Los Angeles, where California law makes it illegal to build a school within 500 free of a busy highway, and officials warn against building homes and daycare centers within that pollution zone, tens of thousands of homes have been built dangerously close to highways in the last few years.

The health risks of traffic-related air pollution are serious. Traffic-related air pollution is known to cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, and to trigger asthma attacks.

In addition, though causality has not been in many cases been proven, traffic-related air pollution been linked to a number of other health problems in adults, some very serious.  Examples include atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, cognitive decline, reduction in brain volume, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, dementia, cardiovascular diseases, and strokes, high blood pressure, premature death, respiratory disease, and suicide.

In children, traffic-related air pollution has been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression, autism and autism spectrum disorder, birth defects, brain cancer, impulsivity and emotional problems, insulin resistance & diabetes, leukemia, low birth weight, lupus, lung damage and other respiratory problems, mental illness, obesity, preterm birth, and reduced intelligence.

The cause of these problems?  Traffic-related air pollution contains dozens of toxins, including particulate matter and nitrogen oxides and as many as 40 other toxins from diesel exhaust, and carbon monoxide, toluene, and benzene from automobiles.

How close is too close?  Scientists cannot yet answer that question authoritatively, but there are indications that health risks are very high within 500 feet of a major highway – and even double that distance is not safe. 

For example, studies have found increased respiratory health problems in children who live or go to school within 100 meters (~330 feet) of a busy roadway, with the greatest risks appearing in the first 50 meters (~165 feet).

For adults, those living:

  • close to densely trafficked roads were at a far higher risk of stroke and dementia than those who lived farther away, and

  • within 1,500 feet of the highway were likely to have 14 percent more C-reactive protein in their blood than those who lived more than a half-mile away. Higher amounts of the protein indicate a higher likelihood of a stroke or heart attack.

Are there things you can do to protect yourself even if you can’t move to a home in a safer location?  Yes, the Lancet reports that your government can cut particulate matter in neighboring communities in half by installing noise barriers and vegetation along the highway, and you can reduce the amount that gets into your home by attaching filters to your and air conditioning systems.  These measures won’t solve the problem, but they can reduce the levels of air pollution you inhale, and lower your health risks.

You can make your city safer.  Protect yourself and your community by educating your public officials on the health risks of near roadway pollution and demand that they put measures in place to protect you and your children.  

To learn more about what you can do, come to the free 4th International Moving Forward Network Conference on October 13-14. This is a rare opportunity, so if you would like to help your family and community, sign up today!

For more background on this subject, see these resources:

New evidence of the dangers of living near highways, Boston Globe

Living Near Highways and Air Pollution, American Lung Association

Living Near A Highway Is Terrible For Your Health. 1 In 10 Americans Do It, Think Progress

Living close to a major roadway could increase dementia risk, study says, CNN

The surprising link between air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease, LA Times

New studies cast dark cloud over air pollution, The Lancet

L.A. warns homebuilders, but not residents, of traffic pollution health risks, LA Times

L.A. keeps building near freeways, even though living there makes people sick, LA Times

The invisible hazard afflicting thousands of schools, The Center for Public Integrity