CINCINNATI , Aug. 20 (UPI) -- More than 30 percent of U.S. public schools are within a quarter mile of major highways putting students at risk of respiratory diseases, researchers said.
University of Cincinnati researchers said research has shown that proximity to major highways -- and environmental pollutants such as aerosolizing diesel exhaust particles -- can leave school-age children more susceptible to respiratory diseases later in life.
"This is a major public health concern that should be given serious consideration in future urban development, transportation planning and environmental policies," principal investigator Sergey Grinshpun said in a statement.
"Health risk can be mitigated through proper urban planning, but that doesn't erase the immediate risk to school-age children attending schools that are too close to highways right now -- existing schools should be retrofitted with air filtration systems that will reduce students' exposure to traffic pollutants."
Grinshpun's team conducted a survey of major metropolitan areas that included more than 8,800 schools representing 6 million students. Primary data was collected through the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. Schools within this data set were then geocoded to calculate distance to the nearest interstate, U.S. highway or state highway.
The study appears in the September issue of the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.