Highway exhaust and family smoking stunts lung growth in children

A new study indicates that children who grow up within 1/3 mile of a freeway or busy highway may sustain permanent lung damage. The study found that the closer children live to busy highways the more likely they are to experience reduced lung function.

Houses near highways harmful to children"Living near freeways is a health issue that we have known about for a long time," said Gennet Paauwe, with the California Air Resources Board. The findings were published by the British journal, Lancet. W. James Gauderman, an associate professor of preventative medicine at the University of Southern California said: "These pollutants are inhaled deeply into the lung and may have the largest impact on the smallest lung airways."

The study noted that when a child reaches 18 years, his lung growth is complete. Thus the impact on lungs at an early age can be devastating.

Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Helath at the Mailman School of Public Health in New York said: "It is also important to consider other variations in air polution." They have studied impacts on children caused by smoking by parents in the home or near children.

Secondhand smoke can also damage lungs, causing permanent damage.

As a personal example, at the age of 40 my lungs were tested and my lung capacity was 50% diminished. The doctors asked if I was a smoker. I have never smoked. They then said: "This then was caused because one of your parents smoked." The doctors were right. My father was a chain smoker, and never knew that his smoking habit of 30 years earlier, permanently damaged my lungs. I recall times in our home and in the car, when the smoke was so thick, that I could hardly breath. My face, as a child would sometimes turn blue, when his smoking caused congestion at the worst.

We all work so hard in global environmental efforts. These facts, where we decide to live, and whether we allow smoking near our children, are something we can control.