Busy Roads Stunt Children’s Lung Growth, Says Study


Children’s lungs are at risk if they live near a busy road, says a new study. Done by the King’s College London, this is the first major study of its size to take a hard look at health conditions caused by air pollution from traffic.

The results are startling, especially considering about three million people in London alone are estimated to live near what the study classifies as a “busy road”.

a female baby stands near a busy road

How Close is Too Close to a Busy Road for a Child?

The study looked at several major cities, including Oxford, London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham, and Southampton. Don’t think that just because you don’t live in the UK these statistics don’t affect you, either – air pollution happens everywhere, after all. These places were selected because the study was done in London.

It specifically looked at families and people who lived within 50 meters of a “busy road”. That’s about 164 feet, for all the Americans in the room who can’t visualize 50 meters.

The study looked at 13 different health issues that could be affected by pollution in the air, including heart disease, bronchitis, lung cancer, lung development and growth, and heart disease.

Results About Traffic and Children’s Lung Development were Staggering – and Terrifying

Looking at children and lung development, it’s hard to argue that there isn’t a connection between decreased lung growth and air pollution.

The study suggests that increased levels of roadside pollution, which would be found living or going to school near a major road, restricts lung growth in children by as much as 14% in Oxford, 13% in London, 8% in Birmingham, 5% in Bristol, 5% in Liverpool, 3% in Nottingham, and 4% in Southampton.

This is a huge amount. A 14% decrease in lung growth with children can lead to all sorts of issues, including increased risk for asthma, lung disease, and many ailments that start in the lungs, like bronchitis and pneumonia.

What is Being Done About Road Pollution?

The coalition of 15 health and environment organizations that sponsored and released the bill are calling for legal action to reduce the pollution in the air, sooner rather than later.

They want the levels of particulate pollution to be reduced to the World Health Organization limits by as early as 2030.

The legal limit in the UK for particulate pollution is PM2.5, which is double the WHO’s recommendation.

The study notes that even reducing the pollution in the air by one fifth could see lung cancer rates in London go down by as much as 7.6%. 3,865 fewer children would also be negatively affected by pollution-related health issues.