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Researchers at the University of Southern California report that children living near busy highways have significant impairments in their lungs’ development, the Los Angeles Times reported today.

The USC study, published online Thursday in the British medical journal Lancet, turned to fourth-grade students from Alpine to San Luis Obispo to draw its conclusions.

The Times‘ Thomas Maugh reports:

The 13-year study of more than 3,600 children in 12 Central and Southern California communities found that the damage from living within 500 yards of a freeway is about the same as that from living in communities with the highest pollution levels …

“If you live in a high-pollution area and live near a busy road, you get a doubling” of the damage, said lead author W. James Gauderman, an epidemiologist at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“Someone suffering a pollution-related deficit in lung function as a child will probably have less than healthy lungs all of his or her life,” he said.

The greatest damage appears to be in the small airways of the lung and is normally associated with the fine particulate matter emitted by automobiles.

For our look at local air pollution, read this story.

ROB DAVIS

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