The 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta provided a unique opportunity for CDC researchers to study the link between automobile traffic, air quality, and asthma. To minimize Atlanta traffic, the city added 1000 buses for round-the-clock public transportation, closed downtown streets to private cars, and encouraged telecommuting or alternate-hour commuting during the games. Peak morning traffic decreased 22.5%. And air quality improved. Particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and ozone levels each decreased by 16% to 28% during the Games, according to the study published in the February 21, 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Meanwhile, the number of asthma-related acute care visits recorded for children ages 1 to 16 dropped by over 40%! Were these families just busy watching the Olympics?
Apparently not. The non-asthma acute care visits varied by no more than 3.1% throughout the Games! Decreasing automobile emissions through citywide changes in transportation and commuting practices, or through changes in automobile design, could have a huge impact on asthma in children.