Effect of motor vehicle emissions on respiratory health in an urban area

David L. Buckeridge, Richard Glazier, Bart J. Harvey, Michael Escobar, Carl Amrhein, John Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)


Motor vehicles emit particulate matter < 2.5 μm in diameter (PM2.5), and as a result, PM2.5 concentrations tend to be elevated near busy streets. Studies of the relationship between motor vehicle emissions and respiratory health are generally limited by difficulties in exposure assessment. We developed a refined exposure model and implemented it using a geographic information system to estimate the average daily census enumeration area (EA) exposure to PM2.5. Southeast Toronto, the study area, includes 334 EAs and covers 16 km2 of urban area. We used hospital admission diagnostic codes from 1990 to 1992 to measure respiratory and genitourinary conditions. We assessed the effect of EA exposure on hospital admissions using a Poisson mixed-effects model and examined the spatial distributions of variables. Exposure to PM2.5 has a significant effect on admission rates for a subset of respiratory diagnoses (asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, upper respiratory tract infection), with a relative risk of 1.24 (95% confidence interval, 1.05-1.45) for a log10 increase in exposure. We noted a weaker effect of exposure on hospitalization for all respiratory conditions, and no effect on hospitalization for nonrespiratory conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-300
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Geographic information system
  • Respiratory health
  • Spatial autocorrelation
  • Vehicle emissions


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