Living close to a freeway in the Central Valley: asthma for sure?
March 30, 2008 12:10 AM   Subscribe

I have mild asthma. My wife and I live in California's Central Valley, and are considering moving to a place that's within 500 feet of Interstate 5. Would living so close to a busy freeway in the valley all but guarantee that our four month-old son develops asthma?

The place we're looking at is perfect for us in many ways, but proximity to I-5 is a turnoff. Is there any way to mitigate freeway pollution. The cards are already stacked against my son thanks to my genes and the valley's sucky air quality.
posted by DakotaPaul to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
I may be mistaken, but I remember reading that even the concentration of photochemical smog can be much higher close to a major road than it is even a few blocks away. What effect this would have on your son's chances of developing asthma I can't say.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:27 AM on March 30, 2008

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It's in the spores, man
posted by watercarrier at 3:44 AM on March 30, 2008

The answer to your question is no, it wouldn't all but guaranteer your son develops asthma. Nothing would all but guarantee he develops asthma because it's just not that ubiquitous. I'm sure you can go door to door in the new neighborhood and find countless kids who don't have asthma.

At this time, the link between environmental pollutants and asthma is not well established. It's been studied a fair bit, and the current epidemiological thinking is that certain particular pollutants in more industrial or urban settings may have a very slight impact on asthma prevalence (say 2-5% increase). Indoor allergens as opposed to pollutants probably play a stronger role, though this too hasn't been fully hashed out.

How this translates to your move near a freeway is a question to which no one can give you the answer, but it sounds by the tone of your question that you're probably being a bit more alarmist than you need to be.
posted by drpynchon at 8:52 AM on March 30, 2008

My doctor in a Central Valley city diagnosed many new cases of asthma in adults and children each year for about 8-10 years. He believed most of the cases were directly related to air pollutants -- industrial, agricultural, particles from fireplace smoke (burning logs, not the gas fireplaces), motor vehicles, etc.

Dr. G. and his medical-practice partner contended that unless California and other states took drastic steps to reduce motor vehicle emissions and agricultural pollutants (chemicals, fertilizers AND the burning of crop residues instead of tilling them), that hundreds and perhaps thousands more cases of asthma and other respiratory ailments would be diagnosed each year. He even thought bicyclists and runners in our city should wear surgical masks when they exercised because of the pollutants in our air.
posted by Smalltown Girl at 10:23 AM on March 30, 2008

I'm not a doctor. I am, however, a lifetime asthma patient. I also lived the first 17 years of my life in beautiful Bakersfield, California, where I was diagnosed with asthma.
However... I do not think it was the air quality that did me in. I think it was my dad's smoking. See, my brother and sister don't have asthma. They grew up in Bakersfield, too.
Now that I live in the South, my asthma is much worse, because it's allergic asthma. Ding ding ding! I'm allergic to cigarette smoke, which triggered my asthma. Now I don't live with a smoker, but I am allergic to nearly every pollen floating around the deep South, so my asthma is still active. Very well controlled, but active. (When I go back to Bakersfield these days, I don't even have to use my asthma meds. For me, it's a bad case of "the pollens," as we say here.)
My point is, you can't know until you actually try. I don't even think there is a genetic link established (yet) to asthma.
Find yourself a good allergist and pulmonologist and be prepared to deal with it. There is no ideal place to live for asthma anyway; every climate has its problems, and, in my opinion, you shouldn't have to narrow your choices of places to live because of a condition you have (or your child may or may not develop).
posted by FergieBelle at 1:39 PM on March 30, 2008

Short answer: nobody knows what causes asthma.

Slightly less short answer: don't worry about it. If you think it will cause harm to your kid, don't move there. And vice versa.
posted by gjc at 6:46 PM on March 30, 2008

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