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Last Updated: February 20, 2019


Air Quality: Traffic 2


Big Idea: Exposure to traffic can worsen asthma.

Talking points:

  • An asthma attack can occur 1-3 days following exposure to ozone.
  • Particulate matter, or PM, worsens asthma. It is commonly found along heavily traveled roads and highways. Living, playing, and going to school around such roadways is a common way that people are exposed to PM.
  • The respiratory system acts as a filter to protect the body from harmful substances, but it cannot prevent the intake of very small particles. So we breathe them in and they become lodged into our lungs and cause inflammation, worsening asthma.
  • Ozone, which is often found in smoggy areas of some cities, is another pollutant commonly associated with traffic. Ground level ozone is formed when pollution from car and truck tailpipes reacts with heat and sunlight. Cities with lots of people and large amounts of traffic tend to experience higher ozone levels.
  • Ozone has been shown to worsen asthma symptoms for up to 3 days following a person’s exposure.

Guarnieri and Balmes, 2014. Outdoor Air Pollution and Asthma
Sheffield et al. Ambient ozone exposure and children’s acute asthma in New York City: a case-crossover analysis
Turner, Michelle et al, 2016. Long-Term Ozone Exposure and Mortality in a Large Prospective Study
US EPA, Ozone Pollution, 2017

Categories: Air Quality