April 7, 2010

Road Hazard

Local traffic could raise your risk for cardiovascular disease

Living near a busy secondary road could raise your blood pressure and increase the levels of a protein associated with cardiovascular disease, according to a Tufts study.

The research found a correlation between these health conditions and people who live within 220 yards of a roadway traveled by 20,000 to 40,000 vehicles each day.

These are lower traffic volumes than earlier studies had associated with such health risks, says Christine Rioux, G88, G09, the study’s lead author who is a researcher in public health and community medicine at Tufts. The study was published in the online journal Environmental Health Perspectives in March.

The research draws on a longitudinal study of chronic health conditions in Massachusetts’ largest Hispanic group. Researchers reviewed health data collected between 2004 and 2006 from 1,020 Puerto Rican women and men between the ages of 45 and 75. Most lived in the Boston neighborhoods of the South End, Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan and Jamaica Plain.

The researchers evaluated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is found in the blood and linked to cardiovascular disease, and blood pressure levels in the study participants. They took into account the distance between their homes and roadways and their exposure to varying amounts of traffic volume.

“We were somewhat surprised that the lower level of traffic common to many of our urban roadways was associated with increases in the biomarkers we studied,” Rioux says. The study also found that people with pre-existing conditions such as obesity and diabetes were at even greater risk for developing these health problems.

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