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Aims: To determine whether residents of congested streets have a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms than residents of nearby uncongested streets, and whether their respiratory health improves following a reduction in exposure to traffic related air pollutants.
Methods: An area was identified where certain streets were subject to air pollution from heavy road traffic, which was likely to improve following the construction of a by-pass. A respiratory survey was conducted among the residents, together with the residents of nearby uncongested streets, at baseline and again a year after the by-pass opened. Measurements were made of air pollutant concentrations in both areas on both occasions.
Results: Initial concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 were substantially higher in the congested than in the uncongested streets. When the by-pass opened, the volume of heavy goods traffic fell by nearly 50%. PM10 decreased by 23% (8.0 µg/m3) in the congested streets and by 29% (3.4 µg/m3) in the uncongested streets, with similar proportionate falls in PM2.5. There were no clear or consistent differences between the residents of the two areas initially in terms of symptoms or peak flow variability. Repeat questionnaires were obtained from 165 and 283 subjects in the congested and uncongested areas respectively, and showed a tendency for most symptoms to improve in both areas. For chest symptoms, the improvement tended to be greater in the uncongested area, although the difference between the areas was not statistically significant. Rhinitis and rhinoconjunctivitis tended to improve to a greater extent in the congested streets; the difference between the areas was significant for the degree to which rhinitis interfered with daily activities. Peak flow variability tended to improve in the uncongested area.
Conclusions: The by-pass reduced pollutant levels to a degree that probably alleviates rhinitis and rhinoconjunctivitis but has little effect on lower respiratory symptoms.