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February 17, 2010

Traffic Pollution can speed hardening of arteries

A study has found that the residents of Los Angeles who 're living in freeways experience a hardening of the arteries that leads to heart disease & strokes at twice the rate of those who live farther away.

People living within 328 feet of an L.A. freeway were found to have twice the average progression of atherosclerosis - thickening of artery walls that can lead to heart disease & stroke.
The study was conducted by researchers from USC and UC Berkeley, along with colleagues in Spain and Switzerland,& published this week in the journal PloS ONE.The paper is the first to link automobile & truck exhaust to the progression of atherosclerosis - the thickening of artery walls - in humans.Traffic PollutionResearchers used ultrasound to measure the carotid artery wall thickness of 1,483 people who lived within 100m, or 328ft, of Los Angeles freeways. Taking measurements every six months for three years, they correlated their findings with levels of outdoor particulates - the toxic dust that spews from tailpipes - at the residents' homes.

They found that artery wall thickness in study participants accelerated annually by 5.5 micrometers - one-twentieth the thickness of a human hair - more than twice the average progression.

The study comes at a time of growing alarm over the effects of freeway pollution on nearby schools and homes. In the four-county Los Angeles Basin, 1.5 million people live within 300m, or 984ft, of major freeways.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is battling in federal court to overturn the caps on motor-vehicle emissions set by Southern California air quality officials, saying that they fail to account for higher pollution near freeways.

Los Angeles & Long Beach residents 're fighting expansion of the truck-clogged 710 Freeway, saying it will lead to higher rates of asthma, heart disease & cancer in densely populated areas.

In July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched a major study of traffic pollution near Detroit roadways to examine whether it leads to severe asthma attacks in children.

More than a third of Californians report that they or a family member suffer from asthma or respiratory problems, according to a survey last year. The Obama administration is proposing tighter standards for two vehicle-related pollutants: nitrogen dioxide (NO2) & ground-level ozone, the chief component of smog.

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