Airway effects of traffic-related air pollution on outdoor workers

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Purpose of review

Traffic-related air pollution has been well documented to be associated with increased risks of airway diseases in the general population. Particularly, susceptible subgroups have included children and endurance athletes exercising outdoors. Relatively little has been published on the risks for outdoor workers. The purpose of this review is to identify the relative airway risks of outdoor work in areas with increased vehicular air pollution.

Recent findings

We found a small body of recent literature published on this topic. Most of the relevant studies have focused on traffic police, petrol pump workers, and highway workers, especially in the urban areas of high traffic pollution. These studies suggest increases in respiratory symptoms and reduction in spirometric indices in nonsmoking workers in these occupations when compared with control individuals. Research is needed to investigate the relationship with duration of exposures in these workers, and to determine the duration and reversibility of effects in order to develop standards for safe working exposures.


A significant impact on airway function and respiratory symptoms has been reported from outdoor work with exposure to traffic pollution. Further research is needed to confirm these associations and to develop standards for safe outdoor work in urban settings.

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