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[June 26, 2012]

Asthma Linked to Congested Highways:

Those Living Near Heavily Traveled Interstate Have Higher Rates of Disease

Researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, found that living near a heavily congested highway correlates with a higher presence of asthma.

In a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the researchers found higher rates of asthma among those living closer to Interstate 278, near a portion known locally as the Gowanus Expressway, and lower rates of disease in those living in the same community but farther from the Interstate.

SUNY Downstate’s Maria-Anna Vastardi, MD, said, “Our participants were randomly recruited and we observed that the patients who reported asthma live significantly closer to the Gowanus Expressway, compared to the healthy controls who live in the same area, but at a longer distance from the Gowanus.”

The findings indicate that proximity to a heavily trafficked highway correlates with the presence of asthma in adults, but not with seasonal allergy, according to Dr. Vastardi. The results suggest that vehicle emissions may increase the risk for developing inflammatory lung disease in adults.

The study involved 62 adults recruited from the outpatient department of Lutheran Medical Center, including 45 patients with rhinoconjunctivitis or asthma and 17 healthy controls. 

Dr. Vastardi gave an oral presentation of her findings at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Vastardi is a first-year fellow in Downstate’s Division of Allergy and Immunology. 


SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator. SUNY Downstate ranks eighth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools.  More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.

Lutheran Medical Center (LMC), founded in 1883, is a 462-bed academic teaching hospital offering a complete range of services including a N.Y.S. designated Stroke Center, state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization laboratory, award winning orthopedic program, Bariatric Center of Excellence, and one of the busiest emergency departments and Level I Trauma Centers in Brooklyn. As a social ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the medical center is committed to excellence and culturally competent care.