Proximity of California public schools to busy roads

Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Jan;112(1):61-6. doi: 10.1289/ehp.6566.


Residential proximity to busy roads has been associated with adverse health outcomes, and school location may also be an important determinant of children's exposure to traffic-related pollutants. The goal of this study was to examine the characteristics of public schools (grades K-12) in California (n = 7,460) by proximity to major roads. We determined maximum daily traffic counts for all roads within 150 m of the school using a statewide road network and a geographic information system. Statewide, 173 schools (2.3%) with a total enrollment of 150,323 students were located within 150 m of high-traffic roads (greater than or equal to 50,000 vehicles/day); 536 schools (7.2%) were within 150 m of medium-traffic roads (25,000-49,999 vehicles/day). Traffic exposure was related to race/ethnicity. For example, the overall percentage of nonwhite students was 78% at the schools located near high-traffic roads versus 60% at the schools with very low exposure (no streets with counted traffic data within 150 m). As the traffic exposure of schools increased, the percentage of both non-Hispanic black and Hispanic students attending the schools increased substantially. Traffic exposure was also related to school-based and census-tract-based socioeconomic indicators, including English language learners. The median percentage of children enrolled in free or reduced-price meal programs increased from 40.7% in the group with very low exposure to 60.5% in the highest exposure group. In summary, a substantial number of children in California attend schools close to major roads with very high traffic counts, and a disproportionate number of those students are economically disadvantaged and nonwhite.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Black People*
  • Black or African American
  • California
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Public Sector*
  • Schools*
  • Social Class
  • Transportation
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Vehicle Emissions