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Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Jan;112(1):61-6.

Proximity of California public schools to busy roads.

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Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, California Environmental Protection Agency, 1515 Clay Street, 16th Floor, Oakland, CA 94612, USA.


Residential proximity to busy roads has been associated with adverse health outcomes, and school location may also be an important determinant of children's exposure to traffic-related pollutants. The goal of this study was to examine the characteristics of public schools (grades K-12) in California (n = 7,460) by proximity to major roads. We determined maximum daily traffic counts for all roads within 150 m of the school using a statewide road network and a geographic information system. Statewide, 173 schools (2.3%) with a total enrollment of 150,323 students were located within 150 m of high-traffic roads (greater than or equal to 50,000 vehicles/day); 536 schools (7.2%) were within 150 m of medium-traffic roads (25,000-49,999 vehicles/day). Traffic exposure was related to race/ethnicity. For example, the overall percentage of nonwhite students was 78% at the schools located near high-traffic roads versus 60% at the schools with very low exposure (no streets with counted traffic data within 150 m). As the traffic exposure of schools increased, the percentage of both non-Hispanic black and Hispanic students attending the schools increased substantially. Traffic exposure was also related to school-based and census-tract-based socioeconomic indicators, including English language learners. The median percentage of children enrolled in free or reduced-price meal programs increased from 40.7% in the group with very low exposure to 60.5% in the highest exposure group. In summary, a substantial number of children in California attend schools close to major roads with very high traffic counts, and a disproportionate number of those students are economically disadvantaged and nonwhite.

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