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Playing Fields Near Busy Highways Pose Risks for Youth Athletes

Pollution A Danger to Developing Lungs

Before your community decides to locate playing fields near a busy highway, it should consider these serious facts:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics concluded in December 2004 that "exposure to traffic-related pollution, such as exhaust emissions from cars and diesel exhaust from trucks and even school buses, increases a child's risk of respiratory complications as well as lifetime risk of cancer."

  • A substantial and growing body of scientific evidence has linked airborne toxic pollution from motor vehicles, trains and aircraft to significant health problems, especially in children, including aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function, irregular heartbeat, heart attack and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

  • Recent studies warn that the developing lungs of children may be especially vulnerable to adverse consequences of particle inhalation and that exercise in high ambient particle conditions may increase the risk of lung and vascular damage.

  • A 2006 study in the journal Inhalation Toxicology found that levels of ambient air pollution at athletic fields located adjacent to major highways were several fold higher than levels measured at fields located in more rural areas.

  • The same study also found that the fields close to major highways exposed children to levels of ambient ozone above levels shown to cause airway inflammation, abnormal lung function, and asthma exacerbation, with the highest levels in the warmer afternoon hours when games and practices are held and traffic is at its peak.

  • The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (among others) recognizes that the fine particulates, which are more likely than larger particulates to pass through the throat and into the lungs, present the greatest health risk because they have "been more clearly linked to the most serious health problems and have been linked with illness and deaths from heart or lung disease."

  • Exhaust from cars and diesel trucks contain high concentrations of the ultrafine particulate matter that have the greatest toxicity, with concentration directly related to traffic density.
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