Research suggests living near a busy road can raise the risk of lung cancer by 10 per cent
Living close to a busy road can raise your risk of lung cancer by up to 10 per cent, research has shown.
The phenomenon could contribute to 400 cases of the disease a year in London alone, experts fear.
Their study also found that children living within 50 metres of busy roads may have up to 14 per cent slower lung growth than those near quieter streets.
Researchers found those living within 50 metres of busy roads in London had a 9.7 per cent higher risk of lung cancer than those on quieter streets, based on long-term average pollution levels [File photo]
Researchers believe cutting air pollution by a fifth in England’s busiest cities could see 171 fewer underweight babies born each year.
They say high-pollution days in cities may lead to 124 extra hospital admissions for children with asthma each year, and that cutting pollution by a fifth could prevent more than 4,400 chest infections in children.
This reduction would also mean more than 2,300 adults are spared living with coronary heart disease every year.
A study led by King’s College London last year estimated that air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths a year.
The research, released by a coalition of 15 health and environmental groups, looked at long-term average pollution in each of the cities, then estimated the effect if it was cut by a fifth. Traffic is pictured above on a busy London street
Now researchers led by a team at King’s have analysed studies combining medical records and air pollution data across nine English cities – London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton – as well as four in Poland.
They found those living within 50 metres of busy roads in London had a 9.7 per cent higher risk of lung cancer than those on quieter streets, based on long-term average pollution levels.
Tiny pollution particles called PM2.5 come from car exhaust fumes, among other sources, and are easily inhaled – potentially damaging lung cells’ DNA, which can lead to cancer.
The study concludes the capital’s major roads may contribute to 390 lung cancer cases.
There would be 2,357 fewer annual cases of coronary heart disease in adults after cutting PM10 by 20 per cent – although poor diet and fatty food is a bigger cause than pollution. A sign for London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is pictured above
Comparing children aged 11 to 15 who live close to busy or quiet roads, the experts also found the lungs of those in more polluted areas of London grew 12.5 per cent more slowly.
The scientists found the lungs of teenagers close to main roads in Oxford grew 14.1 per cent more slowly, based on tests of how much air they could exhale.
The research, released by a coalition of 15 health and environmental groups, looked at long-term average pollution in each of the cities, then estimated the effect if it was cut by a fifth.
Across the English cities, researchers found 171 fewer babies would be born underweight – less than 5lb and 8oz – if levels of nitrogen dioxide, another pollutant, were cut by a fifth.
If other particles known as PM10 were cut by 20 per cent, they estimated there would be 4,481 fewer children each year suffering from acute bronchitis – the most common chest infection along with pneumonia.
Poor air quality can also cause coronary heart disease by triggering inflammation, which may narrow arteries by influencing the build-up of fatty deposits.
Mother’s fear over traffic by son’s school
The mother-of-three, 40, from Stoke Newington in north London, said at the time she was ‘worried he might not make it’
Lucy Harbor began worrying about the busy road in front of the playground at her children’s school after her son Leo was admitted to hospital aged three with pneumonia.
The mother-of-three, 40, from Stoke Newington in north London, said at the time she was ‘worried he might not make it’.
Leo, now nine, suffered asthma attacks for years afterwards.
Mrs Harbor, whose family lives close to the A10, learned of the high level of pollution at William Patten School in a university air quality study.
She said: ‘This new report confirms many of my worst fears – that where we live and my children go to school could seriously be affecting our health.’
Her daughter Iris, six, had bronchiolitis as a baby, and son Samuel, two, recently got croup.
There would be 2,357 fewer annual cases of coronary heart disease in adults after cutting PM10 by 20 per cent – although poor diet and fatty food is a bigger cause than pollution.
Similarly, smoking remains a considerably higher risk factor for lung cancer than pollution.
The study also compared days with low and high pollution, examining the 25 per cent of days at either end of the scale over three years.
Among children with asthma, 232 fewer children aged five to 14 would suffer symptoms if high-pollution days fell to the level of low days.
Dr Penny Woods of the British Lung Foundation said: ‘It seems as if every day we see more and more evidence of the terrible health effect air pollution is having on our lungs.’