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Living Near Car Traffic Leads to Heart Disease, Study Finds

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traffic-roadFumes from gas-powered cars (diesels, mostly) can harm your health seriously if you live near high-trafficked roads. Fine particle matter (PM) emitted by ICE engines enter your lungs and access even the deepest parts of them, as they’re just 1/100 of a human hair in width (2.5 micrometers).

David Rich, ScD, associate professor of public health at the University of Rochester, NY, presented the auditorium at EuroPRevent 2013 in Rome, Italy, the results of a study done in Germany on 4,238 people living near major roadways, over a five-year span.

The study found that as the fine particle volume increased, the participants’ rate of atherosclerosis also increased by as much as 20 percent. For every 100 meters (300 feet) that they lived nearer a roadway, the atherosclerosis risk increased by 10 percent. Among many other damaging effects, atherosclerosis can lead to heart disease and strokes.

Traffic noise had also been the main topic of a previous study, also linking it to heart disease. “These two major types of traffic emissions help explain the observed associations between living close to high traffic and subclinical atherosclerosis,” Hagen Kälsch MD, lead researcher from the West-German Heart Center, said in a statement. “The considerable size of the associations underscores the importance of long-term exposure to air pollution and road traffic noise as risk factors for atherosclerosis.”

“They have been linked to heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia and all kinds of respiratory problems, such as asthma,” Rich said. “It’s also been linked to mortality as well. […] If you live in a place where you’re constantly being exposed to a pollutant, being away from cars is important,” he said. “You also need to make sure you filter your air.”

Clean air is one of the most important things to consider when thinking of alternative energy carriers for our vehicles, such as batteries or hydrogen. Taking the worst case scenario, even if you burn coal to produce electricity, but that electricity powers EVs down the road, it’s a win for your health. Being too close to the pollution source (the car engine) can damage you and your family forever – so consider buying a small electric vehicle for your daily commute, at least – if you can afford it.

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