Impact of Highway Air Pollution: Breathing Healthy Air Near Busy Roads

Environment | Healthy Air |

Impact of Highway Air Pollution: Breathing Healthy Air Near Busy Roads

2 minute read

Increasing evidence shows the impact of highway air pollution on people who live near heavily trafficked areas is of major concern. Roughly 30-45% of the North American urban population is being exposed to the harmful effects of living next to a busy road. And while children and teenagers are most vulnerable, they are not the only ones at risk.

Health Impact of Highway Air Pollution

According to a study by the Health Effects Institute, long-term exposure to traffic air pollution to those that live or work within 300-500 meters from the highway can result in an increased risk of any of the following:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Premature death
  • Decreased lung function
  • Dementia
  • Poor overall cognition
  • Asthma attacks in children
  • Death from cardiovascular morbidity

Overcoming The Impact of Highway Air Pollution

There are environmental benefits to urban density. Living close to a transportation hub, for example, reduces the number of cars on the road.

Current best-practice mitigation measures to reduce the impact of highway air pollution exposure, such as better air filtration systems and vegetation barriers, are also making a difference.

But the consensus is clear, the farther out you live or work from the high-volume roads, the greater the health benefits.

There are measures you can take to protect your respiratory health if moving is not an option, starting with monitoring the air quality by visiting the EPA website

When air quality is low, follow these tips.

Tips from an Air Quality Official

  • Try to avoid rush hour on your commute to work if possible by taking back roads or going through a park if you need to walk
  • Keep your home clean by using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, a wet mop on floors, and never dry dusting. Bare floors are much safer because they don’t hold on to dirt and dust like carpets do
  • Don’t smoke, burn candles, or use a fireplace
  • Never wear your shoes in the house and change clothes when you get home for the day
  • Keep windows closed
  • Remain indoors as much as possible in a building with air filtration like a portable air filter (home, office, etc.)
  • Install air filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of 13 in your HVAC system for the cleanest air possible without decreasing efficiency


It’s Time to Care About Healthy Air
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