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Reviews on Environmental Health

Editor-in-Chief: Carpenter, David O. / Sly, Peter

Editorial Board Member: Brugge, Doug / Edwards, John W. / Field, R.William / Garbisu, Carlos / Hales, Simon / Horowitz, Michal / Lawrence, Roderick / Maibach, H.I. / Shaw, Susan / Tao, Shu / Tchounwou, Paul B.

4 Issues per year

CiteScore 2016: 1.95

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Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.885

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Volume 26, Issue 2 (Jun 2011)


Methodological lessons and pilot data on the effect of proximity of homes and schools to highways on pediatric asthma and lung function

Doug Brugge
  • Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
  • Email:
/ Jennifer S. Hong
  • University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA
/ Davida Schiff
  • Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
/ Carrie Hui
  • Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
/ Sarah Moy
  • Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
/ Michele Palella
  • Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA
/ Virginia Buchner
  • Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
/ Mark Woodin
  • Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA
Published Online: 2011-05-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh.2011.016


Purpose: Numerous studies have found that either living or attending school near highways or exposure to pollutants associated with heavy motor vehicle traffic are associated with a high prevalence of asthma and reduced lung function. Yet, few investigations have assessed school and home exposure in the same study.

Methods: We recruited children aged 5–19 years from a pediatric clinic in an urban center (Boston Chinatown) for many of whom housing and school were located immediately adjacent to two major highways. A questionnaire was used to assess self-report of diagnosis of asthma and the proximity of schools and homes to highways, as well as basic demographic information. Spirometric lung function data were obtained and reviewed by a pediatric pulmonologist blinded to survey responses. During this review, we excluded lung function tests of low quality.

Results: The analyses did not demonstrate any associations or mean differences between near-highway exposure at school, at home, or both with diagnosed asthma (p>0.10, n=124). For the lung function data (n=87), neither direct measures (FEV1, FVC, and FEF25–75) nor ratio measures (FEV1/FVC and FEF25–75/FVC) had a significant association with near-highway exposure (p>0.10). Certain predisposing factors, such as diagnosed allergies and family history of asthma, were strongly associated with diagnosed asthma (p<0.05 and p=0.001, respectively), findings we have seen consistently in other work with children recruited from the same clinic. We also found that exposure to pests was significantly correlated with a smaller FEF25–75/FVC ratio (p=0.02).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that either limitations in our study design restricted our ability to see the associations reported by others or that such associations do not exist in this population. One possibility is that in this community, with heavy street traffic and many street canyons, the gradient of exposure next to the highway is not very well delineated by simple proximity.

Keywords: Boston Chinatown; environmental exposure; environmental monitoring; lung diseases; traffic-related pollutants

About the article

Corresponding author: Doug Brugge, PhD, MS, Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 02111, USA Phone: +1-617-636-0326

Received: 2010-03-14

Revised: 2010-03-25

Accepted: 2010-04-01

Published Online: 2011-05-31

Published in Print: 2011-06-01

Citation Information: Reviews on Environmental Health, ISSN (Online) 2191-0308, ISSN (Print) 0048-7554, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh.2011.016.

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