Our Work Air Pollution Renew Economy: The other road toll we can no longer ignore

Renew Economy: The other road toll we can no longer ignore

We are confronted daily in the media with the deadly results of crashes on our roads and the tragedy that befalls those involved, writes Dr Graeme McLeay. Seat belts, improved vehicle design, drink driving legislation and other measures have seen the number of road deaths decline from a high in 1970 of almost 3,800 to 1,137 in 2018. This figure is still too high and much effort is made to reduce it. There is, however, another menace on our roads which is largely ignored – exposure to traffic pollution.

A large Vancouver study showed that living within 150 metres of a major highway significantly increased the risk of heart attack. 

Children are particularly at risk from air pollution. The Australian Child Health and Air Pollution Study has revealed a strong association between nitrogen dioxide exposure and asthma. 

Australia’s air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and ozone are up for review by Australia’s environment ministers, as the present standards are two decades out of date, and are not acceptable in light of what is now understood about the harm.

The review of ambient air quality standards  is an opportunity for Australia to adopt international best practice and improve the air we breathe, and with it our health and our quality of life.

Dr Graeme McLeay is a retired anaesthetist and a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia

Read the full article in Renew Economy, 16 August 2019

Further reading:

  • Joint Expert Position Statement by leading health and environment groups on health-based standards for Australian regulated thresholds of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone in ambient air.
  • DEA’s submission to the Proposed variation to the Ambient Air Quality NEPM standards for ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
  • While submissions regarding a revision of the NEPM standards close on Wednesday 7 August, the environmental ministers, both state and federal, over the next weeks will continue to debate the issue. Add your voice here to send a letter to our elected representatives calling for stricter air pollution control. The link will take you to the do-gooder platform which will enable you to send your letter straight to national Environment Minister Sussan Ley and other relevant ministers involved in the final decision.