A large study indicates that living near a major roadway can increase a woman’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by up to nearly two thirds.

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Jaime Hart, ScD, and colleagues used geographical information software to measure the distance between the nearest major roadway and the homes of 90,297 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. They found that the risk of developing RA was 31% higher among participants who lived within 50 meters of interstates or primary, multi-lane roads than among those who lived more than 200 meters away from such thoroughfares. The risk more than doubled to 63% among women who resided within 50 meters of the very largest roadways. Women between the 50- and 200-meter marks did not have an elevated risk compared with the women who lived farther away.

“The observed association between exposure to traffic pollution and RA suggests that pollution from traffic in adulthood may be a newly identified environmental risk factor for RA,” wrote the authors in their report, which was published online on March 4, 2009, by Environmental Health Perspectives (www.ehponline.org/members/2009/0800503/0800503.pdf, accessed June 22, 2009).