As DEHC reported in Nov 2009, the CAFEH Study is gathering data about air pollution and its effects on residents’ health in three communities. CAFEH is a community based participatory study conducted through Tufts University School of Medicine and four community partners, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership, Committee for Boston Public Housing, Inc., Chinatown Resident Association and Chinese Progressive Association.
Scientific research on air pollution from motor vehicle exhaust has shown that residents living close to heavily traveled highways may have increased rates of heart disease, asthma, and lung cancer because of their exposure to the nearby highway pollutants. Residents living in Somerville, South Boston, Dorchester and Chinatown along I-93 and the Mass Pike have high exposure to traffic on these highways. Activists in these communities - the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP), the Committee for Boston Public housing, the Chinatown Progressive Association and the Chinatown Residents Association – started a collaboration with the Tufts University Schools of Medicine and Engineering to measure levels of air pollution along I-93 to assess the association between exposure to air pollutants and the cardiovascular health of residents living near highways.
By forming a research partnership to study pollution exposure and health effects, the group was able to receive funding in 2008 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institute of Health to conduct a 5 year community based research study. The study is called the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH) http://www.tufts.edu/med/phfm/CAFEH/CAFEH.html.
The group started working first in Somerville, and will move to South Boston and Dorchester and, finally, into Chinatown, all communities with residential neighborhoods next to heavily trafficked highways. The study involves interviewing residents and collecting air samples in the neighborhoods using a van equipped with instruments that measure pollutants and monitors weather conditions.
Part of the study involves conducting a scientific survey of residents living in the near-highway neighborhoods. The study will determine the time residents spend within the near-highway zone and rigorously measure highway pollution gradients over the course of one year in each neighborhood. Other sources of exposures in the home, at work, school and while commuting are being documented. The group is also requesting that volunteers donate blood sample and blood pressure measurements to look at the level of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood which is a marker of inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and other illnesses.
Public Health Implications
The benefit of participating in this study for residents is to learn whether living very near major highways poses health risks that might be addressed, for example, by in-home air filtration. If the CAFEH study is able to learn what impact weather conditions such as temperature and wind direction may have on the concentration of pollutants it might be possible for people to determine the best times to open their windows, spend time outside or exercise near the highway.
Please contact DEHC for more information about this study.