Sydney Morning Herald – Saturday 30 July 2005
Car fumes driving us to early grave
By Alexandra Smith and Julie Robotham
Pollution from cars may be prematurely killing as many as 2000 Australians each year and causing another 2000 asthma attacks.
The residents most at risk from car fumes live in the
It says about 4500 people are thought to be treated in hospital each year as a result of car-related pollution, while the Federal Government estimates the health impact costs at least $2.7 billion a year.
The study - the first of its kind by the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics - found that in 2000 air pollution from cars caused between 900 and 2000 early deaths, and was responsible for as many as 4500 cases of cardio-vascular and respiratory diseases and bronchitis.
"Similarly, motor vehicle-related air pollution is estimated to have contributed to between 700 and 2050 asthma attacks in
Children may be more vulnerable than adults because they inhale more air for their body weight. As well, they may spend more time outdoors and their growing organs may be more susceptible to damage. Several studies have demonstrated a higher prevalence of chronic cough among children living close to main roads.
The study warns that even though Australian cities have low pollution levels, particularly in comparison with Los Angles or
"Recent research has implicated ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter - all pollutants formed from vehicle exhausts - as contributing factors to asthma-related hospital admissions and mortality," the study says.
The bureau's study, which analyses the results of previous international studies on pollution, says that while scientists have long known that pollution worsens the suffering of asthmatics, more recent science suggests it may actually cause asthma.
Andrew Tonkin, the National Heart Foundation's chief medical officer, said: "It's fair to say health professionals tend to ignore this area but the public is very concerned. This [report] really substantiates the drive for cleaner vehicles and improved city planning and I applaud the transport department for looking at this."
Guy Marks, the head of epidemiology at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, said it was difficult to quantify to what degree pollution contributed to overall rates of asthma and other lung conditions.
Laboratory experiments in which people were subjected to pollutants could sometimes establish levels at which they caused obvious changes to body functions. However, it was harder to know how people might respond to long-term, lower levels of exposure, and to separate any effects from others such as diet.