Effect of motor vehicle emissions on respiratory health in an urban area

Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Mar;110(3):293-300. doi: 10.1289/ehp.02110293.


Motor vehicles emit particulate matter < 2.5 microm in diameter (PM(2.5)), and as a result, PM(2.5) concentrations tend to be elevated near busy streets. Studies of the relationship between motor vehicle emissions and respiratory health are generally limited by difficulties in exposure assessment. We developed a refined exposure model and implemented it using a geographic information system to estimate the average daily census enumeration area (EA) exposure to PM(2.5). Southeast Toronto, the study area, includes 334 EAs and covers 16 km(2) of urban area. We used hospital admission diagnostic codes from 1990 to 1992 to measure respiratory and genitourinary conditions. We assessed the effect of EA exposure on hospital admissions using a Poisson mixed-effects model and examined the spatial distributions of variables. Exposure to PM(2.5) has a significant effect on admission rates for a subset of respiratory diagnoses (asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, upper respiratory tract infection), with a relative risk of 1.24 (95% confidence interval, 1.05-1.45) for a log(10) increase in exposure. We noted a weaker effect of exposure on hospitalization for all respiratory conditions, and no effect on hospitalization for nonrespiratory conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Information Systems
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Ontario
  • Patient Admission
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology*
  • Urban Population
  • Vehicle Emissions / adverse effects*


  • Vehicle Emissions