According to the USC Children’s Health Study , which followed a group of children into adulthood, daily exposure to road traffic emissions during childhood can set the stage for cardiovascular disease in adulthood .
The research, recently published in the journal Environmental Health , made use of ultrasounds to examine the carotid arteries in participants at age 10 and again a decade later. Changes in the thickness of the carotid artery intima-media is a measure of atherosclerosis at a very early stage, the underlying cause of most cardiovascular disease.
The study was based on the most recent Children’s Health Study cohort: approximately 5,000 children . The children in the current study came from 13 communities in Southern California, representing a mix of backgrounds.
For each child, the researchers calculated average residential exposures to regional environmental pollutants such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter using regulatory air monitoring data. They estimated exposure to nitrogen oxides based on the proximity of a child’s home to busy highways .
Still, future studies will provide a more complete picture of the interaction between diet, physical activity and exposure to pollution.
Early detection of carotid artery changes has the potential to improve understanding of how cardiovascular disease develops over time in relation to air pollution, and thus help identify children at risk for cardiovascular disease at age adult