Traffic pollution to blame for 8 percent of county's child asthma cases: study

Sept. 25, 2012, 11:39 a.m.

Traffic pollution that wafts over nearby residents is responsible for 8 percent of L.A. County's childhood asthma cases, say researchers. (G. Meyer/Flickr Creative Commons)

Maybe you're one of the few Angelenos who doesn't harbor any deep, venomous resentment toward the county's notorious traffic.

This may help convert you.

A new USC-based study says at least 8 percent of the more than 320,000 cases of childhood asthma in L.A. County can be attributed to traffic pollution that dirties the air near kids' homes.

The research, which appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives, also said that previous estimates of the number of asthma cases in kids may have fallen short – by a lot.

The study's authors concluded that the county needs to make pollution reduction a priority, whether that's by reducing urban sprawl or encouraging walking or the use of mass transit.

They also wrote that more development in densely urban areas is just going to make the problem worse if county and city officials don't also do something to decrease congestion (and thus pollution), "especially for [emergency room] and clinic visits and for school absences."

Another option would be decreasing the population near roads where pollution is heavy. If the county reduced the pollution on heavily-used roads by 20 percent, and then also reduced the nearby population by 3.6 percent, researchers estimated that would result in around 5,900 fewer cases of asthma.

But even if the county does reduce pollution on busy roads by 20 percent, the number of asthma cases will still go up if the nearby population increases.

Central Avenue certainly qualifies as a busy road, being one of the main thoroughfares through the southside. Here are the averages for how many cars passed through these South L.A. intersections every day between 2009 and 2010, according to data from the L.A. Department of Transportation:

– Central and Gage avenues: 29,465 vehicles per day
– Alameda Street and Washington Boulevard: 43,937
– Avalon Boulevard and Gage Avenue: 27,315
– Broadway and Florence Avenue: 23,414
– Vernon Avenue and Figueroa Street: 38,335
– Vermont and Slauson avenues: 29,281
– Washington Boulevard and Compton Avenue: 32,901

Asthma is particularly problematic on in South Los Angeles because a lot of folks don't have access to regular primary care. Jan King, an area health officer for the L.A. County Department of Public Health, told OnCentral in May that a minor respiratory problem can evolve into a serious and potentially deadly condition without proper care.

Another trigger for asthma that the southside sees a lot of? Cockroaches.

Photo by G. Meyer via Flickr Creative Commons.

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