While Los Angeles has adopted an air quality component into its general plan – which guides land use in the city – the city has little ability to restrict development near freeways or limit how developers want to use private property next to major roadways. Tiny bits, big risk But in releasing a study last week on the effects of air pollution from freeways, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine Professor W. James Gauderman said community leaders, schools and developers should consider the health impact when developing new schools and homes. “This is important because in areas where the population continues to grow, more and more children are living or attending school near busy roadways,” Gauderman said in a statement. “This may be harmful in the long run.” The most recent federal study focuses on how fine particulate matter – microscopic bits 1/30 the width of a human hair – can increase the risk of heart disease in older women. In a study of 65,893 post-menopausal women, University of Washington-based researchers found that women exposed to higher levels of fine particles were at greater risk of heart attacks, coronary disease, strokes and clogged arteries. Researchers have known that particulates can contribute to heart and lung disease – with women perhaps more susceptible, perhaps because of their smaller blood vessels and other biological differences. This study expands on the previous research and helps build the case for stronger pollution controls on cars, factories and power plants that generate fine particulate matter pollution, according to an editorial accompanying the study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Risk heightened The EPA tightened its daily limit for fine particulates in September but left the average annual limit untouched, allowing a concentration of 15 millionths of a gram for every cubic meter of air. In the University of Washington study, two-thirds of the subjects fell under the national standard with the average exposure at 13 units. But the study found that every increase of 10 units lifted the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease by about 75 percent. Unlike earlier studies, it looked not just at deaths, but also at heart attacks, coronary disease, strokes and clogged arteries. These problems were 24 percent more likely with every 10-unit rise in particles. And almost 3 percent of the women suffered some kind of cardiovascular problem. The Associated Press contributed to this story [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “This study adds another plank in those theories that it’s dangerous to be near particulate matter. Unfortunately, people in California are unaware of the risk and live very close to freeways.” The study comes just weeks after Southern California researchers released a report that found that children who live near freeways may have stunted lungs because of the air pollution. Long a toxic source Researchers and air quality regulators have long known that freeways are among the most toxic sources of pollution in the Southland – and that particulate matter pollution can damage the lungs, brain and heart. But Southern California officials have little power to clean up cars and have been unable to persuade legislators, local planners and developers to restrict building around freeways. The South Coast Air Quality Management District sent out voluntary guidelines encouraging cities and counties to keep houses, hospitals and schools at least 500 feet from freeways. Tiny particles in polluted air – much of it caused by tailpipe emissions – significantly increase the risk of heart disease for older women, according to a newly released federally funded study. The findings raise new questions about whether Environmental Protection Agency pollution limits are tough enough. And for Los Angeles – a region dominated by cars and freeways – it adds to the growing evidence that living near major roadways can be bad for your health. “We know that particulate matter, especially diesel, is something that can create irreversible damage. With children, once those tiny particles are in their lungs that’s when the damage occurs,” said Annette Kondo with the Coalition for Clean Air.