A new study has calculated the high price of asthma-related illness for those who live in close proximity to high-traffic areas. The costs are staggering.
Do you live near a highway or major road where traffic is the constant background to everyday life? Your exposure to the traffic-produced pollutants may be contributing to poor lung health, especially for your children. But it may also be contributing to poor financial health as well.
Traffic pollution causes asthma
In a recent study to be published in the European Respiratory Journal scientists studied the total costs of asthma due to pollution, beyond the traditional risk assessment methods. Past studies have shown that traffic-related pollution causes asthma among children who live near major roadways—as well as exacerbating it.
They looked at two outcomes: bronchitic symptoms (daily cough, congestion or phlegm, or bronchitis for three months in a row) and the cost of care for a child with asthma. This includes parents’ missed work days, extra doctor visits, and travel time, along with prescriptions.
For their study, they looked at two communities in California—Long Beach and Riverside—where there are high regional air pollution levels and large roads near residential neighbourhoods. They found that the total additional asthma-related costs were about $18 million per year, almost half of which was due to new asthma cases caused by pollution.
Indirect costs high
The annual cost for a typical asthma case was $3,819 in Long Beach and $4,063 in Riverside. They added that “the largest share of the cost of an asthma case was the indirect cost of asthma-related school absences.” This involved costs incurred by parents or caregivers missing work.
The study results should be a wake-up call for governments everywhere. If we want to control health care costs, look to city planners and environmental policies to help mitigate this increasing burden on our pocketbooks—and most importantly on our children’s health.