2013 - Research

Chronic burden of near-roadway traffic pollution in 10 European cities (APHEKOM network)

Recent epidemiological research suggests that near road traffic-related pollution may cause chronic disease.

  • Childhood asthma attributable to air pollution in 10 European cities was estimated by calculating the number of cases of 1) asthma caused by near road traffic-related pollution, and 2) acute asthma events related to urban air pollution levels. The researchers then expanded their approach to include coronary heart diseases in adults.
  • Derivation of attributable cases required combining concentration-response function (CRF) between exposures and the respective health outcome of interest (obtained from published literature), an estimate of the distribution of selected exposures in the target population, and information about the frequency of the assessed morbidities.
  • Exposure to roads with high vehicle traffic, a proxy for near road traffic-related pollution, accounted for 14% of all asthma cases. When a causal relationship between near road traffic- related pollution and asthma is assumed, 15% of all episodes of asthma symptoms were attributable to air pollution. Without this assumption, only 2% of asthma symptoms were attributable to air pollution. Similar patterns were found for coronary heart diseases in older adults.  In the discussion, the authors suggest that their estimate of cases is likely low, due to under-reporting of cases.  They point out that proximity to traffic will vary across an urban area, so finer analyses may be needed to tease out relationships between air quality and chronic disease burden.
  • The authors conclude that pollutants along busy roads are responsible for a large and preventable share of chronic disease and related acute exacerbation in European urban areas.

Perez L, Declercq C, Aguilera I, et al. (2013). Chronic burden of near-roadway traffic pollution in 10 European cities (APHEKOM network). Eur Respir J. 2013 Mar 21.

Authored by: 
Perez L
Declercq C
Aguilera I
et al