Exposure to air pollution among individuals living near major roadways increases the risk of lung cancer and other health problems, according to the findings of a new study.
In findings published last week in the medical journal The BMJ, researchers from King’s College London analyzed 13 health outcomes in people living in high pollution areas and compared them with the general population in nine cities in the U.K. and four cities in Poland. They also pooled data from previously published studies and compared it with air pollution measurements from roadside monitoring stations.
In addition to the potential lung cancer risk, researchers indicate roadside air pollution may also stunt lung growth among children growing up in the area.
According to research published in August, short-term exposure to air pollution may increase the risk of early death from heart and lung problems.
While prior studies focused on air pollution’s link to early death, life expectancy and hospital admissions, but this report examined the risks associated with living in high pollution areas, focusing on symptoms that affect may people, like acute bronchitis, heart disease, stroke and other health conditions.
According to the findings, living near a busy road, within 50 meters or about 160 feet, can stunt lung growth in children by as much as 14%. It also increases the risk of developing lung cancer by 10%.
Many people in London, much like the United States, live near busy roads. In fact, one-third of people living in London, or about 3 million people, live near busy streets.
Lung growth restriction in children varied by city, based on the levels of roadside air pollution. In Oxford air pollution restricted lung growth by 14%, in London 13%, in Birmingham 8%, in Bristol and Liverpool 5%, in Southampton 4%, and in Nottingham 3%. Living near a busy road can also trigger many respiratory symptoms like asthma, coughing, and bronchitis.
Researchers are calling for air pollution to be reduced and calling on the World Health Organization to impose small particulate matter limits by 2030. Current WHO limits call for small particulate matter not to exceed annual average levels of 10 mg/m3. Existing legal limits in the U.K. are double that limit.
Even reducing air pollution by one-fifth could reduce lung cancer cases by nearly 8% in London alone, researchers determined. It could also lead to nearly 4,000 fewer children being affected by common respiratory symptoms triggered by air pollution, such as bronchitis.