A word of caution to asthma-sufferers: Living by busy streets could make your symptoms worse, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne found that heavy traffic pollution seemed to increase asthma symptoms by 80 percent and smoke from wood fires seemed to increase symptoms by 11 percent among people with the condition.

“These findings may have particular importance in developing countries where wood smoke exposure is likely to be high in rural communities due to the use of wood for heating and cooking, and the intensity of air pollution from vehicular traffic in larger cities is significant,” study researcher Dr. John Burgess, of the School of Population Health at the University of Melbourne, said in a statement.

Interestingly, researchers did not find an association between asthma onset and exposure to heavy traffic pollution or smoke from wood fires.

The study, published in the journal Respirology, included 1,383 adults, age 44, who were part of the Tasmanian Longitudinal Health Study. The study participants rated their exposure to wood fire smoke and traffic pollution. They were also asked to provide information on frequency of exposure to heavy traffic near their homes, as well as their exposure to wood smoke in the environment during the wintertime. Researchers tracked the participants’ asthma symptoms and flare-ups over a year-long period.

Everyday Health previously reported that for traffic pollution in particular, particulate matter and atmospheric ozone are likely the biggest asthma culprits.

“Both pollutants can strain airways in asthma by increasing inflammation and susceptibilities to allergies and infections,” Sumita B. Khatri, M.D., who is the co-director of the Cleveland Clinic Respiratory’s Institute’s Asthma Center, told Everyday Health.


August 21, 2012