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It’s Not Just Asthma: Your Commute Is Giving Kids Cancer

The daily commute is bad news for everyone, not just commuters. Researchers discovered a link between traffic and childhood asthma last month. Just last week we found out that everyday irritations like being stuck in traffic can take a toll on long-term mental health. Now the LA Times reports on a much more troubling correlation. Children growing up near heavy traffic are more likely to develop certain kinds of cancers:

[Researchers] discovered that the more pollution in a place, the higher the incidence of certain kinds of childhood cancers. These included acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer in which the bone marrow overproduces a type of immature white blood cell called a lymphocyte; tumors in the ovaries, testicles and other reproductive organs; and retinoblastoma, an eye cancer that affects the retina and usually develops in children before they turn 5 years old.

There were also signs that more exposure to traffic was associated with more cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (another blood cancer) and ependymoma (a cancer of tissues in the brain and spinal cord)…

These kinds of childhood cancers are still relatively rare, it should be noted, and their incidence rates increase only modestly with exposure to heavy traffic. More research needs to be done to fully understand the health risks that adults and children face when living near high-traffic areas.

But while we wait for science to comprehensively identify the causal link, we should start considering new ways to cut down on our exhaust. Using telework to kill the commute—which takes the average American 25.4 minutes each way—would be good for the environment, save employers and employees money, and help clear the skies over our nation’s highways.

These are all things we should be doing even if it doesn’t turn out that the daily commute is killing us.

[Beijing traffic image courtesy of Hung Chung Chih/]

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  • JT

    Something I noticed with my electric car right away was how I did not feel tired and beat up after driving it. This is in comparison to the typical fossil fuel vehicle, which I have also.

    I’m not sure why that has been. I have a few guesses on what could be going on, particularly with the car exhaust tiring me out or possibly the use of oxygen to feed the combustion leaving less oxygen for me. As I’ve joked, it seemed I could drive forever in the electric car without being tired, which is a problem in its self since the e-cars range is only 120 miles under idea conditions.

  • qet

    25.4 minutes? If only!

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