Objectives: The objective of this study is to examine the relationship between measured traffic density near the homes of children and attained body mass index (BMI) over an eight-year follow up.
Methods: Children aged 9-10 years were enrolled across multiple communities in Southern California in 1993 and 1996 (n=3318). Children were followed until age 18 or high school graduation to collect longitudinal information, including annual height and weight measurements. Multilevel growth curve models were used to assess the association between BMI levels at age 18 and traffic around the home.
Results: For traffic within 150 m around the child's home, there were significant positive associations with attained BMI for both sexes at age 18. With the 300 m traffic buffer, associations for both male and female growth in BMI were positive, but significantly elevated only in females. These associations persisted even after controlling for numerous potential confounding variables.
Conclusions: This analysis yields the first evidence of significant effects from traffic density on BMI levels at age 18 in a large cohort of children. Traffic is a pervasive exposure in most cities, and our results identify traffic as a major risk factor for the development of obesity in children.