Background: Exhaust emissions from vehicles is a well known problem with both epidemiological and experimental studies showing increasing adverse health effects with elevating levels. Many of the studies concerning vehicle exhausts and health are focused on health outcomes where the proportion attributed to exhaust is low, while there is less information on early and more frequent subjective indicators of adverse effects.
Methods: The primary aim of this study was to study perceived annoyance in relation to vehicle exhaust concentrations using modelled levels of nitrogen dioxide outside the home as an indicator with high spatial resolution. Almost 2800 persons in a random sample from three Swedish cities (Umea, Uppsala and Gothenburg) responded to our questionnaire. Questions were asked to determine the degree of annoyance related to vehicle exhausts and also the prevalence of irritating and asthmatic symptoms. Exposure was described for each participants home address by meteorological dispersion models with a 50 meter resolution.
Results: We found a significant increase of peoples' self-assessed annoyance with rising levels of NO2. The odds of being very annoyed by vehicle exhausts increased by 14% per 1 microg/m3 increase of the NO2 level (odds ratio (OR) = 1.14, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.11-1.18), and the odds of reporting the air as daily or almost daily irritating increased by 9% (OR = 1.09, 95% CI = 1.05-1.13). Also the odds of reporting asthmatic symptoms increased significantly with elevated NO2 levels (OR = 1.04, 95% CI = 1.01-1.07).
Conclusion: This study found the degree of annoyance related to vehicle exhaust and irritating and asthmatic symptoms to be significantly dependent on the levels of traffic related pollutants outside the home. The detailed exposure assessment lowers the degree of misclassification as compared to between-city analyses, which makes the results more accurate and applicable on the local scale.