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Journal Article


Cowie CT, Ezz W, Xuan W, Lilley W, Rose N, Rae M, Marks GB. BMJ Open 2012; 2(4): 001201.


Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


(Copyright © 2012, BMJ Publishing Group)






BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Road tunnels are increasingly important components of urban infrastructure. However, knowledge of their health impact on surrounding communities is limited. Our objective was to estimate the short-term respiratory health effects of exposure to emissions from a road tunnel ventilation stack. METHODS: We conducted a randomised cross-over cohort study in 36 volunteers who underwent three exposure scenarios in 2006 before the road tunnel opened, and in 2007 (n=27) and 2008 (n=20) after the tunnel opened. Exposure downwind of the stack was compared to upwind of the stack and to a distant heavily trafficked location adjacent to a main road. Spirometry, exhaled nitric oxide (eNO) and symptom scores were measured repeatedly during each 2 h exposure session. RESULTS: Downwind locations were associated with increased reports of 'dry nose' (score difference 0.36; 95% CI 0.09 to 0.63) compared with the control location (2006 vs 2007/2008), but not with impaired lung function, increased airway inflammation or other symptoms. The heavily trafficked location was associated with significantly increased eNO (ratio=1.09; 95% CI 1.04 to 1.14), eye (score difference 0.05; 95% CI 0.01 to 0.10) and chest (score difference 0.21; 95% CI 0.09 to 0.33) symptoms compared to the stack locations. CONCLUSIONS: There was no consistent evidence of adverse respiratory effects from short-term exposures downwind of the tunnel ventilation stack, except for dry nose symptoms. However, the findings of increased airway inflammation and symptoms in subjects after only 2 h exposure at the heavily trafficked location, are suggestive of detrimental effects of short-term exposures to traffic-related air pollution.

Language: en


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