Even Short-Term Exposure To Traffic Can Be Harmful, Reveals Study

Even Short-Term Exposure To Traffic Can Be Harmful, Reveals Study

Scientists had said exposure to air pollution on city streets can counter the beneficial health effects of exercise in older adults.

Walking is the sort of low impact exercise recommended by the NHS for older people to improve their cardiovascular fitness, but the study found that the impact of air pollution negated this. When it comes to traffic-related noise, however, they found no conclusive effect on babies' health.

All the participants who walked around the park benefitted from increased lung capacity after the first hour, but very little difference was seen for those who walked around Oxford Street. An analysis of the data found that increases in traffic-related air pollutants were associated with 2 to 6 per cent increased odds of low birth weight and 1 to 3 per cent increased odds of being small for gestational age.

He believes it's most important for people with heart and lung disease avoid these areas and adds that despite being conducted in London, the study has global relevance.

Air pollution levels were monitored before and during their walk, and each participant's lung capacity and arterial stiffness was measured before and after.

"For many people, such as the elderly or those with chronic disease, the only exercise they very often can do is walk", said Kian Fan Chung, the study's senior author and a professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, in a released statement.

"Participants were randomly assigned by drawing numbered disks at random from a bag to do a two-hour walk either along a commercial street in London (Oxford Street) or in an urban park", the researchers wrote in their report, published in the Lancet medical journal.


"These would apply to European cities and North American cities where the pollution levels are more similar", Chung said.

"While the research did not show an independent effect of noise on birth weight, we can not rule it out as a potential factor". The study also had people take only two short walks.

Prof Stephen Holgate from Southampton University and special adviser to the Royal College of Physicians on air quality, said: "The observation that air pollution encountered on a high street in London removes any health protection produced by exercise outdoors is yet another demonstration that pollution is eroding the health of ordinary people". "Instead, walking exercise should be enjoyed in urban green space areas away from high density traffic", the authors advised. "But for people commuting or shopping, even in a city as polluted as London, we would still encourage walking and cycling".

Professor Stephen Holgate, special adviser on air quality to the Royal College of Physicians in the United Kingdom, believes that "we can be quite confident from this (new) study that it is the pollution that is the factor responsible for changes in lung function".

"We know from other research that for the vast majority of the population the benefits of any physical activity far outweigh any harm caused by air pollution except for the most extreme air pollution concentrations", he said.

Oxford Street walkers who were healthy only had a 4.6 percent drop, coronary heart disease subjects saw 16 percent dip and those with ischemic heart disease only experienced a 8.6 percent reduction. People like outdoor exercise.

Tainio highlighted that encouraging people to exercise could in turn reduce pollution levels. Air pollution occurs when harmful substances including particulates and biological molecules are in- troduced into Earth's atmosphere. "For example, the planned removal of buses and taxis from Oxford Street should help to achieve this", he said.

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