The role of traffic noise on the association between air pollution and children's lung function

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Although it has been shown that traffic-related air pollution adversely affects children's lung function, few studies have examined the influence of traffic noise on this association, despite both sharing a common source.

Estimates of noise exposure (Ldn, dB), and freeway and non-freeway emission concentrations of oxides of nitrogen (NOx, ppb) were spatially assigned to children in Southern California who were tested for forced vital capacity (FVC, n=1345), forced expiratory volume in 1 s, (FEV1, n=1332), and asthma. The associations between traffic-related NOx and these outcomes, with and without adjustment for noise, were examined using mixed effects models.

Adjustment for noise strengthened the association between NOx and reduced lung function. A 14.5 mL (95% CI −40.0, 11.0 mL) decrease in FVC per interquartile range (13.6 ppb) in freeway NOx was strengthened to a 34.6 mL decrease after including a non-linear function of noise (95% CI −66.3, −2.78 mL). Similarly, a 6.54 mL decrease in FEV1 (95% CI −28.3, 15.3 mL) was strengthened to a 21.1 mL decrease (95% CI −47.6, 5.51) per interquartile range in freeway NOx.

Our results indicate that where possible, noise should be included in epidemiological studies of the association between traffic-related air pollution on lung function. Without taking noise into account, the detrimental effects of traffic-related pollution may be underestimated.

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