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: We conducted a cross-sectional study 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 neighborhood level socioeconomic characteristics, cigarette smoking, and background air pollution, higher traffic density was significantly associated with lower forced expiratory volume at 1s (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC) in females. Relative to the lowest quartile of traffic density, the adjusted differences across increasing quartiles were 5.1, -15.4 and -21.5ml for FEV1 (p value of linear trend across the quartiles =0.041), and 1.2, -23.4 and -34.8ml for FVC (p trend =0.010). Using distance from major roads as a simpler index of traffic related air pollution exposure, the FEV1 was -15.7ml (95%CI -34.4ml, 2.9ml) lower and the FVC was -24.2ml (95%CI -46.2ml, -2.3ml) lower for women living within 150 meters compared to subjects living further away. We did not find a significant effect of traffic density or distance to major roads on lung function among men. The FEV1/FVC ratio was not significantly associated with traffic exposure in either gender.
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.
- air pollution
- pulmonary function