August 27, 2017 by Eric Kirkendall
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.