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Thorax 62:873-879 doi:10.1136/thx.2006.073015
  • Environmental exposure

Traffic exposure and lung function in adults: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study

  1. Haidong Kan1,
  2. Gerardo Heiss2,
  3. Kathryn M Rose2,
  4. Eric Whitsel2,3,
  5. Fred Lurmann4,
  6. Stephanie J London1
  1. 1Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4Sonoma Technology Inc, Petaluma, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Stephanie J London
    National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, P O Box 12233, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA; london2{at}niehs.nih.gov
  • Received 9 October 2006
  • Accepted 31 March 2007
  • Published Online First 18 April 2007

Abstract

Background: Traffic exposure is a major contributor to ambient air pollution for people living close to busy roads. The relationship between traffic exposure and lung function remains inconclusive in adults.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted to investigate the association between traffic exposure and lung function in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, a community based cohort of 15 792 middle aged men and women. Traffic density and distance to major roads were used as measures of traffic exposure.

Results: After controlling for potential confounders including demographic factors, personal and neighbourhood level socioeconomic characteristics, cigarette smoking and background air pollution, higher traffic density was significantly associated with lower forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) in women. Relative to the lowest quartile of traffic density, the adjusted differences across increasing quartiles were 5.1, −15.4 and −21.5 ml for FEV1 (p value of linear trend across the quartiles = 0.041) and 1.2, −23.4 and −34.8 ml for FVC (p trend = 0.010). Using distance from major roads as a simpler index of traffic related air pollution exposure, the FEV1 was −15.7 ml (95% CI −34.4 to 2.9) lower and the FVC was −24.2 ml (95% CI −46.2 to −2.3) lower for women living within 150 m compared with subjects living further away. There was no significant effect of traffic density or distance to major roads on lung function in men. The FEV1/FVC ratio was not significantly associated with traffic exposure in either men or women.

Conclusions: This is the largest published study of traffic exposure and pulmonary function in adults to date. These results add to growing evidence that chronic exposure to traffic related air pollution may adversely affect respiratory health.

Footnotes

  • Published Online First 18 April 2007

  • The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study is carried out as a collaborative study supported by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute contracts N01-HC-55015, N01-HC-55016, N01-HC-55018, N01-HC-55019, N01-HC-55020, N01-HC-55021 and N01-HC-55022. This work was also supported by Z01 ES043012 from the Intramural Research Program, National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS).

  • Competing interests: None.