Use of a total traffic count metric to investigate the impact of roadways on asthma severity: A case-control study
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Background: This study had two principal objectives: (i) to investigate the relationship between asthma severity and proximity to major roadways in Perth, Western Australia; (ii) to demonstrate a more accurate method of exposure assessment for traffic pollutants using an innovative GIS-based measure that fully integrates all traffic densities around subject residences. Methods. We conducted a spatial case-control study, in which 'cases' were defined as individuals aged under 19 years of age with more severe asthma (defined here as two or more emergency department contacts with asthma in a defined 5-year period) versus age- and gender-matched 'controls' with less severe asthma (defined here as one emergency department contact for asthma). Traffic exposures were measured using a GIS-based approach to determine the lengths of the roads falling within a buffer area, and then multiplying them by their respective traffic counts. Results: We examined the spatial relationship between emergency department contacts for asthma at three d ifferent buffer sizes: 50 metres, 100 metres and 150 metres. No effect was noted for the 50 metre buffer (OR = 1.07; 95% CI: 0.91-1.26), but elevated odds ratios were observed with for crude (unadjusted) estimates OR = 1.21 (95% CI: 1.00-1.46) for 100 metre buffers and OR = 1.25 (95% CI: 1.02-1.54) for 150 metre buffers. For adjusted risk estimates, only the 150 metre buffer yielded a statistically significant finding (OR = 1.24; 95% CI:1.00-1.52). Conclusions: Our study revealed a significant 24% increase in the risk of experiencing multiple emergency department contacts for asthma for every log-unit of traffic exposure. This study provides support for the hypothesis that traffic related air pollution increases the frequency of health service contacts for asthma. This study used advanced GIS techniques to establish traffic-weighted buffer zones around the geocoded residential location of subjects to provide an accurate assessment of exposure to traffic emissions, thereby providing a quantification of the ranges over which pollutants may exert a health effect. © 2011 Cook et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
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