The relationship between air pollution from heavy traffic and allergic sensitization, bronchial hyperresponsiveness, and respiratory symptoms in Dutch schoolchildren

Environ Health Perspect. 2003 Sep;111(12):1512-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.6243.


Studies have suggested that children living close to busy roads may have impaired respiratory health. This study was designed to test the hypothesis that exposure to exhaust from heavy traffic in particular is related to childhood respiratory health. Children attending 24 schools located within 400 m from busy motorways were investigated. The motorways carried between 5,190 and 22,326 trucks per weekday and between 30,399 and 155,656 cars per day. Locations were chosen so that the correlation between truck and car traffic counts was low. Air pollution measurements were performed at the schools for 1 year. Respiratory symptoms were collected by parent-completed questionnaire. Sensitization to common allergens was measured by serum immunoglobulin E and skin prick tests. Bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) was measured with a hypertonic saline challenge. Respiratory symptoms were increased near motorways with high truck but not high car traffic counts. They were also related to air pollutants that increased near motorways with high truck traffic counts. Lung function and BHR were not related to pollution. Sensitization to pollen increased in relation to truck but not car traffic counts. The relation between symptoms and measures of exposure to (truck) traffic-related air pollution were almost entirely restricted to children with BHR and/or sensitization to common allergens, indicating that these are a sensitive subgroup among all children for these effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Allergens
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / etiology*
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis
  • Male
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Pollen / immunology
  • Prevalence
  • Vehicle Emissions / toxicity*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Allergens
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Immunoglobulin E