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How Heavy Traffic Can Increase the Risk of Atopic Dermatitis


Researchers link proximity to heavy traffic and risk of atopic dermatitis in new study.

Residential living distance from high-traffic roadways can decrease a patient’s odds of developing atopic dermatitis (AD) by as much as 27%, a new study finds.1

Photo: Zinkevych/Adobe Stock

Photo: Zinkevych/Adobe Stock

Researchers from National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado conducted the retrospective chart review over the course of 13 years. The results were first published in early February in an online supplement of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The study reviewed the associations between more than 14,000 pediatric patients living in the Denver area and their proximity to major roadways. Patients presenting and meeting diagnostic criteria and codes for AD (n=7384) were measured and compared to a control group of pediatric patients without AD (n=7241).

In addition to whether patients had AD, researchers factored in distance by using geocoded coordinates of patients’ residential addresses. These coordinates were used to determine the distance of a patient’s permanent address from high-traffic roadways, which researchers deemed roads amassing traffic of more than 10,000 vehicles on a daily basis. These roads were identified through the Colorado Department of Transportation’s traffic data throughout the span of 13 years.

For each increase in distance from a major roadway, researchers determined a nearly 20% decrease in odds of AD. Even more so, children living at a distance equal to or greater than 3281 feet (.62 miles) from a high-traffic road had 26.1% lower odds of AD than those living within a range of 1640 feet (.3 miles).

This is not the first time researchers and clinicians have identified a potential link between the environment and risk of AD. Inspiration behind the study comes from a recently-discovered clinical association between AD and traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) in urban Asia. In December 2019, researchers attributed the increase of AD prevalence to the “global rise in industrialization and urban living over recent decades,” which they determined is “accompanied by greater cutaneous exposure to environmental pollutants.”

Michael Nevid, MD at Rush Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois is one of the researchers behind the new study and a fellow at National Jewish Health in Denver. He said these results, though promising, are early.

“This is an early association study, so more work needs to be done to examine the pathophysiological mechanisms involved in the association,” Nevid said in a release from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.


1. Nevid M, Hui J, Crooks J, Goleva E, Rabinovitch N, Leung D. Association of atopic dermatitis with proximity to major roads. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2023;151(2). doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2022.12.604

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