Study looks at potential health effects of living near Louisville traffic

The Urban Institute study called “The Polluted Life Near the Highway” focused on Louisville as a case study.
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 4:17 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A new national report examined how living and working close to major highways also poses a major health threat.

The Urban Institute study called “The Polluted Life Near the Highway” focused on Louisville as a case study.

“When we started mapping it out,” Yonah Freemark, Urban Institute Senior Research Associate said. “We immediately found that a huge share of the Louisville population was living within close distances of both interstate highways and major arterial roads. And this is a major concern for people’s lifespans, for people’s health and people’s quality of life.”

Potential health effects due to exposure to roadway pollution include lung disease, stroke, premature birth and cancer.

The study found more than half of Louisvillians live within 1,000 feet of a major roadway.

Most of local schools and two-thirds of workplaces also fall within that distance.

Low-income neighborhoods are considered particularly vulnerable.

“This is definitely problematic for anybody living near highways but especially with these residents with low incomes,” Urban Institute research assistant Gabe Samuels said. “They may face additional barriers.”

Researchers said Louisville’s problems are found in most U.S. cities they praised Louisville city planners.

“Louisville is one of the few cities actually looking at trying to change their zoning code to adapt to different conditions on the ground,” Freemark said. “So, from that perspective Louisville’s doing great. They have a planning department that is really looking ahead to try to improve in quality of life for people in the city. On the other hand, in terms of exposure to highway noise and air pollution, I think Louisville is probably pretty similar to most American cities.”

Authors of the report from the Urban Institute offered words of advice, including placing more sensors in schools and apartments to determine where exposure problems are most acute.

“If they have high levels of contaminants and pollutants,” Freemark said. “We should be installing better filtration systems to ensure people are breathing acceptable air.”