Traffic can clog your heart

trafficSome bad news for those who were contemplating a refrigerator box under a Los Angeles freeway for their next home. Apparently it isn't healthy to live near a highway.

Researchers from USC and UC Berkeley, who clearly have too much time and probably foundation money on their hands, found a link between automotive exhaust and the progression of atherosclerosis -- the thickening of the walls of your arteries. The study was published in the journal PloS ONE.

Every six months for three years, the researchers used an ultrasound to measure the wall thickness of the carotid artery in 1,483 people who lived within 328 feet -- 100 meters -- of Los Angeles freeways. The wall thickness growth was more than twice the average progression in study participants. This was the first time such a study was conducted on humans, although many laboratory mice were apparently trying to tell them the same thing.

Atherosclerosis can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

A cause for alarm? In the four-county Los Angeles basin, 1.5 million people live within 984 -- 300 meters -- of a major freeway. And if the homelessness rate is to be believed, more are moving in every day.

Since we all like creative solutions, here's one: What if we removed a few highways? It was done in Seoul, South Korea in 2002, when the mayor eliminated a 1970s era highway that had literally paved over the Cheonggyecheon River. Instead of rebuilding the road, he restored the stream along the old riverbed. The result was less traffic, more bicyclists and better public transportation options.

A little closer to home, the Embarcadero Freeway once stood elevated on the San Francisco waterfront. Gone now, with a little help from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, what stands in its place today is a waterfront boulevard with parks, bike trails and public exhibitions.

So yes, car exhausts cause air pollution and air pollution is bad for us. Foundations with money to burn may find me here at
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