|Breathing air near highways and roads is now being shown to cause and/or worsen many health problems. Gasoline and diesel fuel contain highly toxic chemicals including benzene, xylene, toluene, and other poisonus compounds. When these are burned in the engine combustion process, they form new highly toxic chemicals including dioxin and a group of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH for short). This page summarizes a number of research studies showing how car exhaust can accelerate the aging process, damage the immune system and increase rates of child asthma, autism, ADHD, depression, diabetes, Alzheimer's, arthritis, anxiety and also lower child IQ. The true cost of operating gasoline powered cars is therefore, grossly underestimated as the actual cost should take into account the increased medical expenses for treating and taking care of individuals whose health has been damaged by this type of localized pollution. The research below should give weight to the critical importance of rapidly accelerating the move away from gasoline powered vehicles and to other fuel sources such as natural gas and electric. We review the research on this topic below and provide links to the original scientific studies reporting this information.
SOURCE: Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(7):1021-6, July, 2010
120 new cases of childhood asthma were reported during a follow-up of kindergarten and 1st Grade children who were asthma and wheezing-free at study entry into Southern California Children's Health Study. Researchers assessed traffic related pollution exposure based on traffic volume and distance from home and school. Asthma rates in chil dren increased by 50% for higher exposure from roadways near homes and by 45% when higher exposure occurred near schools. The scientists concluded by stating:
Traffic-related pollution exposure at school and homes may both contribute to the development of asthma.McConnell R, Islam T, Shankardass K, Jerrett M, Lurmann F, Gilliland F, et al.
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
SOURCE: JAMA Psychiatry, 70(1): 71-77, January, 2013
Children living within 309 meters (1000 feet) of a "freeway" were shown to have a 3x greater risk of developing autism compared to children living beyond this distance. Scientists at the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of California conducted the study along with several other agencies. A total of 279 children with autism were compared to 245 control children. Car exhaust contains many hazardous chemicals that move away from the highway toward surrounding homes and are found in highest concentration closer to the traffic areas.
Dept. of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics
SOURCE: Environmental Health News, November 5, 2014
New York City pregnant mothers exposed to higher levels of car exhaust had children with
SOURCE: Neurotoxicology Teratology, 49:74-80, May-June, 2015
276 minority urban children in New York City were followed through age 7 to determine if higher exposure to chemicals in typical car exhaust negatively affected intelligence. Mothers were measured for car exhaust exposure beginning just after conception and throughout pregnancy. Results showed children exposed to higher vehicle traffic were found to have significantly reduced IQ as measured on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. These results are of great concern as lower IQ is associated with decreased academic success and decreased future income. Car exhaust is a major source of the carcinogenic and neurotoxic chemicals polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).
SOURCE: Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 120(6), June, 2012
Dept. of Environmental Health Sciences,
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University, New York
Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas
SOURCE: Environmental Health, Vol. 14: 53, June 2015
People living closer than 330 feet (100m) from a major highway had significantly more cases of diabetes than people living more than 660 feet (200m). Researchers from a number of universities in Germany followed 3,607 individuals without diabetes in 2000-2003 for an average of 5.1 years and then compared rates of diabetes for the two groups. Those living less than 330 feet (100m) had 30% more cases of diabetes than those living more than 660 feet (200m) away.
SOURCE: Lancet, Jan. 4, 2017
The risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease increases the closer someone lives to a major highway. The study was conducted in Ontario, Canada and found that people living from 100-200 meters from a high traffic highway had a 2% increase risk of Alzheimers Disease. People living 50 to 100 meters had a 4% increased risk and those living less than 50 meters had a 7% increased risk of getting Alzheimers. If the families had lived there for a longer time the risk increased to 12%. Researchers also investigated increased risk for Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis but only Alzheimer's rates increased from traffic exposure.
SOURCE: Epidemiology, October 28, 2017
Nitrogen dioxide is a major gas emitted from car tailpipes during the engine/gasoline burning process. In this study from the Department of Occupational Safety and Health in Taiwan, it was found that people living closer to car traffic had higher rates of rheumatoid arthritis compared to people living farther away. The study included 322,301 subjects aged 30-50 years and were followed for 10 years from 2001 to 2010. Researchers found that people exposed to 10 parts per billion of nitrogen dioxide had a 54% higher rate of arthritis.
Chem-Tox Comment: Rhematoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. Normally, the thymus gland and various white blood cells work to remove autoimmune cells. The above study raises the question if the chemicals emitted from tail pipes in gasoline burning engine has the ability to damage these autoimmune protection systems.
Department of Occupation Safety and Health
SOURCE: Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(7), July, 2009
A total of 90,297 women from the Nurse's Health Study were investigated for arthritis and how close they lived to roads of different traffic levels. After taking into account such variables as smoking, age, race, body mass, physical activity and household income, it was found that nurses living less than 164 feet (50 meters) had a 31% increased risk of having arthritis. In non-smoking women, the increased risk for arthritis was 62%. There were no elevations in risk for women living more than 164 feet.
Brigham and Woman's Hospital
SOURCE: Environmental Health PerspectivesOctober, 2015
Compared with children living more than 200 meters from a major roadway at birth, living < 50 meters had lower nonverbal IQ of 7.5 points.
Verbal IQ was nearly 4 points lower. Visual motor abilities were down 5.3 points. Harmful effects occurred to the fetus from mothers exposure during pregnancy.
Department of EnvironmentalHealth,
Department of EnvironmentalHealth,
SOURCE: Toxicology Sciences, Vol. 145(1), April, 2015
A chemical in car exhaust known as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)is known to increase the risk of cancer. One well studied PAH is called benzo[a]pyrene and 20 different types of PAH compounds have been identified. These compounds are believed to cause cancer by various routes including formation of free radicals and oxidative stress. The compounds were stated to weaken Tumor Supressor Genes as well.
Baylor College of Medicine