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Open Access Research article

Adult asthma and traffic exposure at residential address, workplace address, and self-reported daily time outdoor in traffic: A two-stage case-control study

Anna Lindgren*, Jonas Björk, Emilie Stroh and Kristina Jakobsson

Author Affiliations

Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Lund University, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:716  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-716

Published: 22 November 2010

Abstract

Background

Most epidemiologic studies use traffic at residential address as a surrogate for total traffic exposure when investigating effects of traffic on respiratory health. This study used GIS (Geographical Information Systems) to estimate traffic exposure, not only on residential, but also on workplace address, in addition to survey questions on time spent in traffic during commuting or other daily activities.

The aim was to investigate 1) if there is an association between traffic exposure and prevalence of adult asthma and asthma symptoms, and 2) if so, does this association become stronger using more complete traffic exposure information.

Methods

This study was conducted in two stages: A first cross-sectional survey in Southern Sweden 2004 (n = 24819, 18-80 years, response rate 59%) was followed by a case-control study in 2005 to obtain more detailed exposure and confounder information (n = 2856, asthmatics and controls (1:3), 86% response rate). In the first survey, only residential address was known. In the second survey, questions about workplace addresses and daily time spent in traffic were also included. Residential and workplace addresses were geocoded and linked with GIS to road data and dispersion modelled outdoor concentrations of NOx (annual mean, 250 × 250 m resolution).

Results

Living within 50 m of a road (measured by GIS) with traffic intensity of >10 cars/minute (compared with no road within this distance) was associated with an increased prevalence of asthma, (OR = 1.8, 95% CI = (1.1-2.8), and with asthma symptoms last 12 months. No statistically significant effects were seen for traffic exposure at workplace address, daily time spent in traffic, or commuting time to work, after adjustment for confounders. A combined total exposure estimate did not give a stronger association with asthma prevalence or asthma symptoms.

Conclusions

Traffic exposure at close proximity to residential address showed association with asthma prevalence and asthma symptoms last 12 months, among adults in southern Sweden. The associations were not stronger when accounting for total traffic exposure. This could reflect exposure misclassfication at workplace address and for other daily time in traffic, but also that residential address remains the main determinant for traffic exposure among adults.