Last year, environmental geoscientist Mark Krekeler of Miami University in Ohio traveled to Gary, Ind., a former steel city of 77,000 people just outside of Chicago, Ill., to study the dust and debris that collect along the sides of roads.

Krekeler and his team chose Gary because it is analogous to many other urban areas throughout the world; it’s a medium-sized, formerly heavily industrial city now faced with a severely reduced industrial output. This makes Gary a good place to determine whether metal pollution is still pervasive in road sediment years after industrial activity waned, the team reported in Environment International.

Indeed, chronic toxicity from heavy metal exposure can lead to asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, carcinomas, and even cardiovascular diseases, said Raihan Khan, a doctoral student in the School of Public Health at West Virginia University who wrote a 2018 review paper on road dust health implications.

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