Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Damn that traffic jam
A new study shows that children who live near a major highway are more likely to develop asthma and other respiratory diseases than kids who don't. No big shocker there. Anyone who's ever had to change a tire on the interstate can tell you that trying to breathe there is like trying to inhale inside one of Tommy Chong's lungs. But the University of Southern California study also showed that living within a third of a mile of a freeway substantially stunted the actual lung development of children. And proximity is a huge factor: Children 18 years old who'd lived near the freeway since age 10 had substantially reduced lung capacity compared to children who lived only a few hundred meters farther away. Because kids' lungs are typically finished growing by age 18, the reduced capacity is probably lifelong and increases the likelihood for heart disease, emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, and the chances that they'll break into a wet, hacking cough trying to yell over the highway noise. USC found similar results in 2004 when a study showed that teenagers growing up in smoggy areas are five times more likely to have clinically low lung function compared to teens in low-pollution areas. And that's before they even hit their prime smoking years.