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HEI releases comprehensive report on health effects of traffic-related air pollution

13 January 2010

The Health Effects Institute (HEI) published today a new report, titled “Traffic-Related Air Pollution: A Critical Review of the Literature on Emissions, Exposure, and Health Effects”. The report—one of the most comprehensive and systematic reviews of the worldwide traffic emissions and health science to date—has found that there are substantial gaps in what we know about exposure to traffic air pollutants and their health effects.

Based on a systematic review and analysis of over 700 worldwide studies, the report found that the body of medical research provides little firm evidence on the relationship between exposure to traffic and disease. Sufficient evidence was found that exposures to traffic-related air pollution cause asthma exacerbation in children. While “suggestive evidence” also links traffic-related pollution to a number of other health effects, the existing data was deemed insufficient to establish a causal relationship.

While difficult to quantify, the health effects of traffic-related air pollution appear to be most severe along highways. The report noted that the zones most impacted by traffic pollution are up to 300 to 500 meters from highways and other major roads.

The report was authored by an HEI Special Panel, chaired by Dr. Ira Tager of The University of California Berkeley School of Public Health. The Panel, which included a dozen US and international experts in emissions, exposure, epidemiology, statistics, and public health, concluded:

The report also identified a number of top priority research needs to fill key gaps in our understanding of emissions, exposure, and health.

The Boston, MA-based Health Effects Institute is an independent, non-profit research organization funded jointly by the US government and the industry to provide high-quality, impartial science on the health effects of air pollution.

Source: Health Effects Institute