We all seem to agree that reducing pollution from auto traffic is a good idea. But why? Reduce global warming gases? Save the ozone layer? Give us generally healthy air to breathe? Researchers are beginning to study individual health affects of highway pollution. Just in case we needed it, the research is providing another reason to remove high-traffic highways from high-density population centers.
The Boston Globe story
For decades, researchers have studied the dangers of coarse particles emitted by power plants and vehicles, which can aggravate asthma and other health problems and are regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Ultrafine particles are less understood and not subject to direct government limits, even though many scientists believe they could be even more harmful.
“Since we see associations with asthma and cardiovascular disease with people living near highways, you have to ask what’s causing that,” said Doug Brugge, director of the Tufts Community Research Center and the scientist leading the study, which will begin this summer. “There is a lot of smoke suggesting that there is a fire.”
Researchers suspect the health risk from ultrafine particles is greatest downwind and within 300 feet of busy highways.