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CanadaExposure to pollution can offset health benefits of walkable neighbourhoods, study finds

15:25  25 june  2019
15:25  25 june  2019 Source:   thestar.com

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While walkable neighbourhoods have beneficial health effects for its inhabitants, those benefits are reduced significantly by exposure to air pollution , a new study finds . The study , published by St. Michael’s Hospital, finds that several features of walkable neighbourhoods — high population

But a new Canadian study finds that air pollution can offset these benefits . Critically, we further found that while residing in an unwalkable neighbourhood was associated with a higher likelihood of having diabetes or hypertension than living in the most walkable communities, any observed benefit

Exposure to pollution can offset health benefits of walkable neighbourhoods, study finds © CARLOS OSORIO Dylan Reid, co-founder of Walk Toronto, noted that the study underscores a seemingly “impossible situation” by showing how walking and cycling can expose you to more pollutants when, simultaneously, pollutants decrease if people choose not to drive.

While walkable neighbourhoods have beneficial health effects for its inhabitants, those benefits are reduced significantly by exposure to air pollution, a new study finds.

The study, published by St. Michael’s Hospital, finds that several features of walkable neighbourhoods — high population density, nearby shops and services, proximity to thoroughfares and vehicle-heavy areas — could potentially offset some of the benefits associated with neighbourhoods where residents are more likely to walk or cycle rather than drive.

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The study led by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences But when the authors added rates of air pollution to the equation, the In fact, the places that were the most walkable but had the highest levels of pollution were just as unhealthy

The benefits of living in a walkable neighborhood could be diminished by increased exposure to traffic-related air pollution , suggests a study led by St. Michael's Hospital and ICES, a non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad

And while this doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy to live in a walkable neighbourhood, it means the benefits can be less, if not entirely non-existent.

The findings challenge the notion that living in walkable neighbourhoods is enough to improve the health and well-being of Canadians.

Using a sample of nearly 2.5 million adults from 15 Ontario municipalities, Toronto included, the study finds that, overall, people living within the most walkable neighbourhoods had a 6 per cent chance of being diabetic — a 3 per cent lower risk than those living within the least walkable neighbourhood — but that number could increase to as much as 15 per cent depending on air pollution.

“The message here is really that walkable neighbourhoods are good, but air pollution erodes some of that benefit, and by the time you get to polluted neighbourhoods, you really don’t see much benefit of whether it was a walkable neighbourhood at all,” said Nicholas Howell, a PhD student at the University of Toronto and the study’s lead researcher.

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What did you set out to study ? We were really interested in whether air pollution in urban areas might offset some of the health benefits of living in walkable neighbourhoods . To estimate individuals’ exposure to pollution , our collaborator and co-author, Dr. Perry Hystad, a researcher at

Increased exposure to traffic-related air pollution may reduce the benefits of living in a walkable community, according to a new Canadian study “Previous research has shown that individuals living in more walkable neighborhoods are more physically active, with downstream health benefits like

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He said that the researchers looked at records of individuals’ health care use — for example, if someone had been to a doctor and diagnosed with hypertension or diabetes, as well as the neighbourhoods these individuals lived in at the time of their diagnosis.

“People in walkable neighbourhoods, downtown neighbourhoods like in Toronto, tend to be more active, tend to be less likely to be overweight or obese, and they’re less likely to develop health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes,” he said.

In 2014, Toronto Public Health estimated that air pollution resulted in approximately 1,300 deaths and 3,500 hospitalizations per year.

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Can offset health benefits of walkable neighbourhoods study finds . A new study published by St.Michael hospital finds that while walkable neighborhoods have beneficial health effects for its inhabitants, those benefits are reduced significantly by exposure to air pollution .

Active Transportation and Health – this report synthesizes evidence on health benefits and risks associated with walking, cycling and physical activity The study found that people living in walkable neighbourhoods across the GTA, and in Toronto, do more utilitarian walking, take transit more often

Dylan Reid, co-founder of Walk Toronto, said the study should encourage all levels of governments to reduce air pollution by increasing walkability, and shouldn’t discourage Torontonians from walking or cycling instead of driving.

“The federal government needs to make the regulations that are necessary, whether it’s through a carbon tax or vehicle emissions standards, to reduce air pollution, while the province and city need to create public transit that offers a plausible alternative to driving and make walking and cycling more attractive options.”

He noted that the study underscores a seemingly “impossible situation” by showing how walking and cycling can expose you to more pollutants when, simultaneously, pollutants decrease if people choose to walk or cycle rather than drive.

“It’s really important, when you look at a study like this, to see that the solution is a long-term solution that gets more people walking and cycling, more people taking transit, and reducing the amount of cars used,” he said. “It takes more work, but it’s a better solution.”

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Find , read and cite all the research you need on ResearchGate. We examined the risk– benefit balance between active travel related PA and exposure to air pollution PA benefits of active travel outweighed the harm caused by air pollution in all but the most extreme air pollution concentrations.

The physical and mental health benefits of time spent in parks, woods or the beach are well known, but the new Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “It’s fascinating to see this link between exposure to nature and better health and wellbeing.

“When we’re pushing (walkability) initiatives, we want to take into account other factors in the environment, like air pollution to make sure those neighbourhoods are as healthy as possible,” said Howell. “You would hate to generate a very walkable neighbourhood that was polluted, then you don’t get those health benefits that you were hoping for.”

With files from Temur Durrani

Emma Sandri is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @emmarosesandri

Jacob Lorinc is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @jacoblorinc

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