Strategies to cope with traffic pollution can save lives

Harold Mandel's picture
Heavy traffic

The planet earth is becoming a less habitable place to live daily. In fact someday the earth may become so filthy from pollution it may not be able to sustain any human life. One of the major killers on the planet at this time is air pollution from traffic which is causing dramatic increases in serious respiratory illnesses, cardiac diseases, cancer, and death.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has noted the health effects of air pollution have been reported in research studies covering the past 30 years. These harmful effects from air pollution include respiratory diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, changes in lung function, and finally death. There is also growing evidence that exposure to air pollution has long-term effects on lung development in kids.

Harvard School of Public Health has written that traffic and air pollution are recognized as the most significant triggers of heart attacks worldwide. It has been observed that exposure to traffic and air pollution contributes to 12 percent of heart attacks worldwide. Furthermore, while an individual’s risk from air pollution is of deep concern, the amount of risk for the entire community becomes intolerable.


Science Daily has reported, "Traffic-Related Air Pollution Substantial Public Health Concern." Traffic-related air pollution has been shown to have negative health effects and has become a substantial public health concern. There has been growing evidence of a causal effect between exposure to air pollution from traffic and the development of asthma in both children and adults. And diesel exhaust has been associated with the development of lung cancer.

The effects of air pollution from traffic has been studied by researchers in Canada. In Canada alone about 21,000 people die prematurely from air pollution each year. This is about 9-fold more deaths from air pollution than from traffic accidents. About 10 million people, or 32 percent of the population of Canada, live within about 500 m of highways or 100 m from major urban roads. These areas are constantly exposed to elevated levels of traffic-related air pollution. Michael Brauer, of the School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, BC, and coauthors, have written, "This high prevalence of exposure, in addition to evidence of associated health problems, suggests that traffic-related air pollution is a substantial public health concern in Canada."

Several strategies have been recommended to help lessen the effects of traffic associated air pollution. Efforts should be made to reduce vehicle emissions. Programs should be instituted to remove or re-build high-emission vehicles. Traffic congestion must also be reduced and the infrastructure for electric cars should be expanded. Cycle and walking routes should be separated from busy roads. Schools, daycare centers, hospitals and retirement homes should be located further away from busy streets. Clearly, these and other aggressive initiatives to fight air pollution from traffic and other sources are necessary if mankind wishes to maintain life on the planet earth.

On a daily basis you can consider walking or cycling for short distances. For longer distances, public transportation might be a consideration. If you have to drive you could consider the possibility of carpooling. It's also a good idea to try to avoid traffic during rush-hour. And if you are using your own car, don’t idle it for too long, unless you have no choice in heavy traffic Idling your vehicle uses gas and pollutes the air. Furthermore, take notice of the air pollution index provided daily by your local weather stations and on days when the pollution index is very high make certain you do not exert yourself too much outdoors. These tips should help you and your community cope better with the problem of pollution from traffic.

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