Childhood asthma and exposure to traffic and nitrogen dioxide

Epidemiology. 2005 Nov;16(6):737-43. doi: 10.1097/01.ede.0000181308.51440.75.


Background: Evidence for a causal relationship between traffic-related air pollution and asthma has not been consistent across studies, and comparisons among studies have been difficult because of the use of different indicators of exposure.

Methods: We examined the association between traffic-related pollution and childhood asthma in 208 children from 10 southern California communities using multiple indicators of exposure. Study subjects were randomly selected from participants in the Children's Health Study. Outdoor nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was measured in summer and winter outside the home of each child. We also determined residential distance to the nearest freeway, traffic volumes on roadways within 150 meters, and model-based estimates of pollution from nearby roadways.

Results: Lifetime history of doctor-diagnosed asthma was associated with outdoor NO2; the odds ratio (OR) was 1.83 (95% confidence interval=1.04-3.22) per increase of 1 interquartile range (IQR=5.7 ppb) in exposure. We also observed increased asthma associated with closer residential distance to a freeway (1.89 per IQR; 1.19-3.02) and with model-based estimates of outdoor pollution from a freeway (2.22 per IQR; 1.36-3.63). These 2 indicators of freeway exposure and measured NO2 concentrations were also associated with wheezing and use of asthma medication. Asthma was not associated with traffic volumes on roadways within 150 meters of homes or with model-based estimates of pollution from nonfreeway roads.

Conclusions: These results indicate that respiratory health in children is adversely affected by local exposures to outdoor NO2 or other freeway-related pollutants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Causality
  • Child
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / analysis*
  • Prevalence
  • Seasons
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vehicle Emissions / analysis*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Nitrogen Dioxide