Traffic Jam Los Angeles

There is no shortage of critiques of the suburbs. The most popular suburban critiques typically are cultural and revolve around disgust with Eisenhower era superficiality and antipathy towards white flight. There have even been some recent environmental additions to criticizing the suburban lifestyle with its long daily work commutes burning massive amounts of fossil fuel making the suburbs themselves unsustainable and wasteful.

But now there is a new critique of suburban living, health. Mental and physical.

According to the Association of Psychological Science:

Everyday irritations like waiting in traffic can build up over time and cause mental problems later in life, psychologists found…

Using data from two national surveys, researchers found negative responses to daily stresses such as arguments with a partner, conflicts at work, standing in long queues or sitting in traffic led to psychological distress or anxiety and mood disorders ten years later.

Spending a nice slice of your day, nearly every day, in a traffic jam is no way to live and will apparently grind you down overtime leading to mental distress.

While driving in traffic is more of an adult concern, the effect of driving in traffic for children can be hazardous. According the European Respiratory Journal:

Traffic pollution is a known trigger of asthma symptoms, but a new study suggests a much more direct link: European researchers say that traffic pollution may cause 14 percent of childhood asthma, putting it on par with second-hand smoke…

“The fraction of people living very close to busy roads was surprisingly high,” said lead author Laura Perez. “We previously evaluated this for Los Angeles where far less live along such traffic corridors. When this finding was combined with existing results from epidemiological studies to evaluate the burden of this exposure, as traditionally done, we found that this exposure could be a quite relevant contributor to chronic diseases.”

And if the deleterious effects of stress causing mental disorders in adults and the pollution from traffic exhaust causing asthma in children is not enough, cancer risks are now on the table.

The researchers – from UCLA, USC and UC Irvine – ranked places in the state according to their degree of pollution resulting from traffic and sorted them into four groups, from the least exposure to the most. They discovered that the more pollution in a place, the higher the incidence of certain kinds of childhood cancers. These included acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer in which the bone marrow overproduces a type of immature white blood cell called a lymphocyte; tumors in the ovaries, testicles and other reproductive organs; and retinoblastoma, an eye cancer that affects the retina and usually develops in children before they turn 5 years old…

There were also signs that more exposure to traffic was associated with more cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (another blood cancer) and ependymoma (a cancer of tissues in the brain and spinal cord)

Who knew long commutes and traffic could be such a menace?

Photo by Jefferey Turner under Creative Commons license