Friday, September 13, 2013

How Much Could Our Health Improve from Reduced Vehicle Emissions?

Protesters gathered outside a courthouse to pr...
Protesters gathered outside a courthouse to protest against the arrest of Simon Oosterman (second from left), Auckland's 13 Feb 2005 WNBR organizer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Respiratory Effects of a Reduction in Outdoor Air Pollution Concentrations (Abstract, Boogaard, Hanna; Fischer, Paul H. Janssen, Nicole A. H.; Kos, Gerard P. A. Weijers, Ernie P. Cassee, Flemming R.; van der Zee, Saskia C.; de Hartog, Jeroen J.; Meliefste, Kees; Wang, Meng Brunekreef, Bert; Hoek, Gerard,Epidemiology, Sep 2013)

Also discussed here: A case for “natural experiments” in urban health (OEH Science, Aug. 25, 2013)

Today we review research that examined the direct cause and effect between reducing traffic emissions on the one hand and improvement in health on the other. Results indicate a small but significant health improvement (up to 6%) from reduced air pollutant concentrations of 10-25%.

Key Quotes:

this study demonstrates the impact of a reduction in urban air pollution in the same community, rather than using existing concentration-response functions from observational epidemiology”

“We assessed whether a reduction in (traffic policy-related) air pollution concentrations was associated with changes in respiratory health.”

“12 locations where air pollution (PM10, PM2.5, soot, NO2 and NOx) were measured included 8 busy urban streets in five cities that would be affected by the new policies and 4 suburban locations where the policies were very unlikely to have any impact”

“Results were driven largely by one street where traffic-related air pollution showed the largest reduction. Forced expiratory volume and FVC [forced vital capacity] improved by 3% to 6% in residents of this street compared with suburban background residents.”

implementation of the policies did have some effect on average concentrations of the pollutions, but that overall the effect was small (~10-25%); for example PM10 levels reduced from 26.6 to 23.0 ug/m3, PM2.5 from 16.0 to 11.7 ug/m3 and NOx from 69.6 to 63.2 ug/m3. Correspondingly, the effects on measures of respiratory health (FVC and airway resistance) as well as exhaled NO were also relatively small (~1%).” 
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