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C-FERST Issue Profile: Outdoor Air - Near Roadway

Automobiles, trucks, and other vehicles on our roadways are an important source of air pollution. With more than 45 million Americans living less than 300 feet from a highway, there is concern about the health impacts of living near heavily traveled roads. Children, older adults, people with pre-existing cardiopulmonary disease, and people of low socioeconomic status are among those at higher risk for health impacts from exposure to air pollution near roadways.

People who live, work, or go to school near major roads appear to have an increased incidence and severity of health problems associated with roadway-related air pollution exposures. Potential health problems include asthma, cardiovascular disease, impaired lung development in children, pre-term, and low-birthweight infants, childhood leukemia, and premature death.

Pollutants found in higher concentrations near roadways include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and benzene. In addition to tailpipe emissions, vehicles also emit brake and tire debris, and can throw road dust into the air. EPA has worked to reduce harmful roadway pollution by establishing emission standards and cleaner fuel requirements, setting National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for roadway pollutants, and requiring air quality monitors be placed near high-traffic roadways for determining NAAQS compliance, and researching the effects of near-roadway air pollution and ways to reduce it.

To learn more about near-roadway air pollution, its sources, associated risks, and what EPA is doing to help, visit the links below.