As land costs have risen in recent years, builders have turned increasingly to urban infill sites, and parcels close to major highways are particularly attractive to commuters. But a study from the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles suggests that children who grow up in neighborhoods within 500 meters (about a third of a mile) of a freeway risk impaired lung development. Previous studies indicated that children living by highways were more likely to develop breathing problems, such as asthma, but this was the first study to suggest that breathing in exhaust for several years could impact the growth of children's lungs.

Researchers for the study tracked the lung development of 3,677 children, starting at age 10, for eight years. The children who lived within 500 meters of a freeway had a 3 percent impairment in the amount of air they could exhale compared to a control group of children who lived 1,500 meters (just under a mile) from the same highway. Children who moved away from a highway, but stayed in the same community, actually gained lung capacity. The study was published in TheLancet.com, the online version of the British medical journal.

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Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.