ABSTRACT: Little information is available about health impacts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) traffic-related pollution on residents near the major traffic corridors along the U.S.-Canadian border. Here we report on a 10 year (1991-2000) retrospective study of commercial traffic volumes across the Peace Bridge and health care use for asthma in a residential community, which serves as a conduit for traffic crossing between Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, and Buffalo, New York. We hypothesized that commercial traffic pollution was impacting on residents in close proximity to the trade corridor. Commercial traffic volumes, hospital discharges for asthma, and outpatient visits to area hospitals and clinics were analyzed before and after implementation of NAFTA. Results showed a positive association between increased commercial traffic volume and increased health care use for asthma. Zip codes 14201 and 14213, which surround the Peace Bridge Plaza Complex (PBC), had the highest prevalence rates and health care use rates for asthma. Statistical analysis showed the findings to be significant (p < 0.05) in that residential proximity to the PBC was associated with greater hospital discharge rates for asthma. The findings were strongest (p < 0.000) in the zip codes where the PBC was located (14213) and the major highway I-190 passed through (14201). A yearly excess of 230.2 adult asthma hospital discharges was associated with an increase in traffic volume during the period from 1991 to 1996 in the study area. This is in contrast to an overall decrease in the national rate of hospitalizations for asthma by 7.5% in the same period. The results suggest that NAFTA-related commercial traffic has a negative health impact on asthmatics living in close proximity to the trade corridor. Health and social costs due to traffic pollution need to be included in cost estimates of transport decisions related to the NAFTA corridors. Similar health effects due to NAFTA traffic need to be studied at other U.S.-Canada border crossing points.
Journal of Asthma 02/2004; 41(3):289-304. · 1.52 Impact Factor