(NaturalNews) Regular exposure to pollution from traffic increases children's risk of developing allergies by more than 50 percent, according to a study conducted by researchers from the German Research Center for Environment and Health at the Institute of Epidemiology in Munich, and published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
"We consistently found strong associations between the distance to the nearest main road and the allergies disease outcomes," said lead researcher Joachim Heinrich. "Children living closer than 50 meters (150 feet) to a busy street had the highest probability of getting allergic symptoms, compared to children living farther away."
It has long been known that air pollutants can trigger severe allergic reactions and asthma attacks, especially when combined with other allergens such as pollen. But the current study suggests that exposure to air pollution might even increase children's risk of becoming allergic to non-pollution substances.
The researchers examined the medical records of almost 2,900 four-year-olds and more than 3,000 six-year-olds living in Munich for diagnoses of allergy or asthma. They then plotted these against the distance of the children's homes from major roads at the time of birth and at the ages of two, three and six.
The researchers also analyzed the pollutants content of the air in various different parts of the city, with a focus on what are believed to be the two most dangerous pollutants: particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.
They found that the risk of developing allergies increased steadily the closer a child lived to a major road, to a total of a 50 percent higher risk for children living within 150 feet.
"[Children] living very close to a major road are likely to be exposed not only to a higher amount of traffic-derived particles and gases but also to a more freshly emitted aerosols, which may be more toxic," Heinrich said.