Does Closeness Make the Heart Grow Weaker? Heart Attacks and Proximity to Local Traffic

By Weinhold, Bob | Environmental Health Perspectives, January 2007 | Go to article overview

Does Closeness Make the Heart Grow Weaker? Heart Attacks and Proximity to Local Traffic


Weinhold, Bob, Environmental Health Perspectives


Growing evidence links heart attacks with short-term exposures to vehicle exhaust from nearby streets. Now some of the first evidence that long-term exposures also are a culprit has been published by a team of Massachusetts researchers [EHP 115:53-57; Tonne et al.]. Cardiovascular disease, of which heart attacks are one major type, is the leading killer in the United States and much of the world.

The team evaluated more than 5,000 cases of acute myocardial infarction that occurred in residents of the mid-sized city of Worcester, Massachusetts, from 1995 to 2003, to determine if there was any connection between the heart attacks and exposure to traffic. They used two measures of exposure: cumulative local traffic within 100 m of the home, and the distance of the individual's house to major roadways. They also factored in variables such as age, sex, income, education, amount of open space in the town, and nearby point sources of fine particulates.

They found that local traffic within 100 m of an individual's house was associated with a 4% increase in heart attack risk for each interquartile increase in cumulative traffic volume. The linkage wasn't as strong at 200 m and 300 m, which fits with other findings that local traffic-related pollutants tend to diminish around 100-150 m from the roadside. …

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