Getting Sick of Sprawl

02-01-2002 // Mark Cheater

YOU ALREADY KNOW that urban sprawl destroys habitat and creates pollution, but did you know that uncontrolled growth can also be hazardous to your health? In a new report, researchers from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) point out that sprawl is among the causes of several worrisome health trends in the United States. For example, obesity has risen dramatically in the past 25 years as Americans have become more sedentary, and asthma rates in children have skyrocketed in part because of smog from automobiles. The researchers also note that thousands of pedestrians are killed by cars every year--most of them in places without crosswalks--and more than 850 people were killed by floods from 1993 to 2001, many of them in areas where developers had drained wetlands or built on floodplains.

"As environments deteriorate, so does the physical and mental health of the people who live in them," says Richard Jackson of the CDC, the report's lead author. "There is a connection, for example, between the fact that the urban sprawl we live with daily makes no room for sidewalks or bike paths and the fact that we are an overweight, heart-disease-ridden society."

For more details from the report, see www.sprawlwatch.org/health.pdf.

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