The harmful impact of traffic-related air pollution on respiratory health has been thoroughly documented, but National Jewish Health experts are also looking at how rising pollutants affect another health area – allergic disease. According to a recent study, highly travelled highways in the state of Colorado have negative effects on skin health in children, increasing the possibility of developing atopic dermatitis. Children who lived at least a thousand metres away from heavily used highways had a decreased risk of developing atopic dermatitis than those who lived within 500 meters.
“These findings highlight the importance of having environmental interventions designed to decrease exposure to traffic in young children,” said Jessica Hui, MD, senior author of the study, and a pediatric allergist and immunologist at National Jewish Health.
Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, commonly occurs in children and can lead to a progression of allergic diseases, also known as the atopic march. Nearly 10 million children in the U.S. have atopic dermatitis, and one-third have moderate to severe disease.
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“The surface of the skin in children with atopic dermatitis is leaky and prone to exposure to environmental hazards, which can lead to an allergic inflammatory response, possibly resulting in food allergies, asthma, and other problems,” said Michael Nevid, MD, first author of the study, and a pediatric allergist and immunologist at National Jewish Health.
For the study, researchers reviewed charts of patients 0-18 years of age who had been seen at National Jewish Health in Denver, from 2008 to 2021. Residential distances from highly trafficked roads for people with atopic dermatitis and controls without atopic dermatitis were calculated. Highway and local road traffic data were obtained from the Colorado Department of Transportation. Highly trafficked areas were defined as roads or highways with annual average daily traffic of over 10,000 vehicles.
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