The Traffic Wheeze

Asthma linked to traffic air pollution in 10 European cities

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Parents who are concerned about their children’s safety already caution them not to play around cars. New research may give them another reason to keep their kids away from traffic.

A recent European study examined how often children who lived near busy roads developed asthma.

Researchers looked at several studies to review pollution levels in 10 cities and asthma rates among children living near the busiest streets.

Air pollution caused by traffic was responsible for a significant number of childhood asthma cases in the studied cities.

"Don't let your children play near traffic."

Laura Perez, MD, at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel, Switzerland, and colleagues set out to estimate the number of childhood asthma cases that might have been caused by air pollution in 10 European cities.

To carry out their study, the researchers looked at previous studies that examined air pollution and asthma.

From these studies, they calculated the number of asthma cases caused by traffic-related pollution in the 10 cities.

The way they measured this type of pollution was by determining how many cars were typically on these high-traffic roads.

They also counted the number of acute asthma events (asthma attacks) related to urban air pollution levels in those cities among the children who lived near these busy roads.

The researchers looked at the data exclusively for children up to the age of 17 years to see if they had developed asthma or asthma-related symptoms.

The results indicated that exposure to roads with high vehicle traffic accounted for 14 percent of all asthma cases among children in those cities.

They also determined that given this relationship between high road pollution and asthma cases, 15 percent of all asthma symptoms were triggered by air pollution.

These findings led the authors to conclude that air pollution can play a significant role in childhood asthma.

“Pollutants along busy roads are responsible for a large and preventable share of chronic disease and related acute exacerbation in European urban areas,” the authors wrote.

"Air pollution has previously been seen to trigger symptoms but this is the first time we have estimated the percentage of cases that might not have occurred if Europeans had not been exposed to road traffic pollution,” said Dr. Perez.

“In light of all the existing epidemiological studies showing that road traffic contributes to the onset of the disease in children, we must consider these results to improve policy making and urban planning," she said.

The study was published online on March 21 in the European Respiratory Journal.

The research was funded by the European Commission’s Programme on Community Action in the Field of Public Health. The authors reported no potential conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 27, 2013
Last Updated:
August 15, 2013