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Canadian Respiratory Journal
Volume 19, Issue 2, Pages 89-95
Original Article

Proximity to Major Roadways is a Risk Factor for Airway Hyper-Responsiveness in Adults

Shannon Riley,1 Julie Wallace,2 and Parameswaran Nair1

1Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health, St Joseph’s Healthcare and Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Canada
2The Hamilton Institute for Humanity and the Environment, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 2012 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Proximity to major roads is reported to be associated with asthma and airway hyper-responsiveness in children. Similar studies using objective measurements in adults are not available in Canada.

OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that adult asthmatic patients who live close to major roads and highways in an urban environment are at a risk of moderate to severe airway hyper-responsiveness.

METHODS: Airway responsiveness was determined using methacholine bronchial provocation (PC20) tests in a cohort of 2625 patients who attended an outpatient clinic in Hamilton, Ontario. Patient addresses were geocoded in a geographic information system to determine proximity to major roads and highways. Multivariate linear and multinomial regression analyses were used to assess whether proximity to roads was a risk factor for airway hyper-responsiveness as measured by PC20 methacholine.

RESULTS: Patients who lived within 200 m of a major road had increased odds (OR 1.38 [95% CI 1.04 to 1.85]) of having moderate airway hyper-responsiveness (0.25 mg/mL <PC20 <2.0 mg/mL) compared with having a normal response (PC20 >16 mg/mL). Spatial analysis also revealed that the majority of patients with severe airway hyper-responsiveness lived within the urban core of the city while those with moderate to mild hyper-responsiveness were also dispersed in rural areas.

CONCLUSIONS: In an adult population of patients attending an outpatient respiratory clinic in Hamilton, living close to major roadways was associated with an increased risk of moderate airway hyper-responsiveness. This correlation suggests that exposure to traffic emissions may provoke the pathology of airway hyper-responsiveness leading to variable airflow obstruction.