Background: There is growing evidence that air pollution from traffic has adverse long-term effects on chronic respiratory disease in children, but there are few studies and more inconclusive results in adults. We examined associations between residential traffic and asthma and COPD in adults in southern Sweden. A postal questionnaire in 2000 (n = 9319, 18-77 years) provided disease status, and self-reported exposure to traffic. A Geographical Information System (GIS) was used to link geocoded residential addresses to a Swedish road database and an emission database for NOx.
Results: Living within 100 m of a road with >10 cars/minute (compared with having no heavy road within this distance) was associated with prevalence of asthma diagnosis (OR = 1.40, 95% CI = 1.04-1.89), and COPD diagnosis (OR = 1.64, 95%CI = 1.11-2.4), as well as asthma and chronic bronchitis symptoms. Self-reported traffic exposure was associated with asthma diagnosis and COPD diagnosis, and with asthma symptoms. Annual average NOx was associated with COPD diagnosis and symptoms of asthma and chronic bronchitis.
Conclusion: Living close to traffic was associated with prevalence of asthma diagnosis, COPD diagnosis, and symptoms of asthma and bronchitis. This indicates that traffic-related air pollution has both long-term and short-term effects on chronic respiratory disease in adults, even in a region with overall low levels of air pollution.