Communist Party of Australia

We acknowledge the Sovereignty of the First Nations’ Peoples.

Home


The Guardian

Current Issue

PDF Archive

Web Archive

Subscribe

Press Fund


CPA

About Us

Why you should ...

CPA introduction

CPA Policies

CPA statements

Contact Us

facebook, twitter


Major Issues

Indigenous

Unions

Health

Housing

Climate Change

Peace

Solidarity/Other


What's On

Resources

AMR

Links


Shop@CPA

Books,
T-shirts,
CDs/DVDs,
Badges,
Misc


 

Issue #1915      May 18, 2020

WHAT’S IN THE AIR?

The air quality has risen during this lockdown period in a few short months. In Australia’s urban city environments inhabitants, including animals, have enjoyed about forty per cent reduction in toxic air pollution because of reduced traffic volumes and some industrial closures. Reduced noise and safer roads for pedestrians and cyclists have been welcomed.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT AFTER THE LOCKDOWN?

As Morrison attempts to bring things to “normal” our roads will become more congested, Sydney will return to having the nation’s most sluggish and congested roadways, with Melbourne not being far behind. Other capital cities are fast catching up with congestion, the only government solution seeming to be more and wider roads which continually fail after a few months after development. Federal and state governments have done an abysmal job, and unless public pressure is applied, little will change.

People are feeling the pressure of population growth through immigration, a steady birth rate, and we are living longer. The daily commute to and from work is typically a grind; the lockdown period has made it a luxury to drive. However, single car drivers do not fit onto the road now; less will fit in the future. If more cars are added to our streets, toxic gases will increase in the breathing zones of pedestrians, cyclists, homes, and buildings, causing considerable illnesses.

Car manufacturers’ vision still includes the personal vehicle, and they are relying on electric cars which will do little for urban mobility and liveability in years to come.

AFFORDABILITY CRISIS DEEPENS

Affordable housing has been built on the periphery of our cities. Workers have long commutes, with a greater reliance on the family car, car payments, insurance, fuel, and repairs eat into the family budget resulting in increased mortgage stress. Our outer city suburban residents would use public transport if they could, but they don’t have that option if public transport doesn’t travel between suburbs or if there are lengthy connection periods, or transport doesn’t coincide with work demands in shift work etc.

SCIENTIFIC DEFINITION OF “ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH”

The definition of environmental health has broadened, and researchers are studying the physical and social environment, which includes issues related to urban and rural development, appropriate uses of land, pesticide use, public transport systems and industrial development. However, our political leaders federal and state are leading us down the wrong road to more illnesses and premature deaths, because of the sacred cow – the motor vehicle.

WHO DARES TO CHALLENGE THIS OBSTACLE TO CLEANER AIR?

Perhaps the experience of reduced traffic and reduced air pollution during the lockdown will be a wake-up call to the reality that traffic pollution and industrial air, water, and land pollution is preventable.

The effects on health by transport-related air pollution are of significant concern. Research in recent decades consistently indicates the adverse effects of outdoor air pollution on human health, and the evidence points to air pollution stemming from transport, as well as industry, as an important contributor to these effects.

Technological improvements and stricter emission standards will decrease vehicle-specific emissions. However, several factors will negate these improvements: the growth of transport, an increase in diesel cars on the market in Australia, short trips, and traffic congestion. These trends may counteract improvements of air quality, particularly with respect to levels of gaseous pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide (CO²).

Emissions of carbon monoxide originate mainly from incomplete combustion of carbonaceous materials, the largest proportion of these emissions are produced as exhausts of internal combustion engines.

WHY SHOULD WE BE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT CARBON MONOXIDE?

There’s a silent killer in our midst – global background concentrations of carbon monoxide range between 0.6 and 0.14 mg/ m³ (milligrams per cubic metre) or (0.05 – 0.12 ppm (parts per million). Because carbon monoxide is a rather stable gas in the atmosphere, the lungs are practically the only significant route for environmental exposure.

Carbon monoxide gas is colourless, odourless and tasteless resulting in people not recognising its presence in the home, office, shops, street, workplace, or even inside the family car. This makes it extremely dangerous for all persons.

SHORT-TERM EXPOSURE TO AIR POLLUTION IS STILL A HIGH HEALTH RISK

The British Medical Journal published an article entitled “Short term exposure to air pollution and stroke systematic review and meta-analysis” with some astounding findings. This study found that admissions to hospitals for strokes or mortality from strokes were associated with an increase in concentrations of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. The weakest gas association was seen with ozone.

The association between gaseous pollutants and stroke relates to a lag in exposure (days), with the strongest associations evident for pollutant concentrations on the day of the event (lag 0) and diminishing with more extended lag periods.

CHILDREN ARE AT GREATER RISK

Immaturity of the respiratory system may result in breathing challenges. Breathing rates of adults can range from 10-15 times a minute, while some adults breathe fewer others breathe more depending on their general health.

Children should not be considered as if they were small adults. Children represent the largest sub-population susceptible to the adverse health effects of air pollution. During the first few months after birth an infant’s metabolic pathways are still developing, and due to this biochemical immaturity, an infant and children inhale and retain larger amounts of air pollution per unit of body weight than adults.

AIR POLLUTION CAN CAUSE SERIOUS HEALTH CONCERNS FOR PREGNANCIES

Ambient carbon monoxide can cause low birth weight, a study in California found; exposure to higher levels of ambient CO during the last trimester was associated with significantly increased risk for low birth weight.

OTHER POLLUTANTS FROM VEHICLE EXHAUSTS CAN ALSO RESULT IN PREECLAMPSIA

Preeclampsia (high blood pressure affecting both the mother and unborn baby), increased forty-two per cent for women living near freeways and congested roads. They are also much more likely to give birth to premature babies and suffer from preeclampsia, according to a study by the University of California Scientists.

AUSTRALIAN STANDARD FOR EXPOSURE TO CO

The Australian standard permits the average exposure over an eight-hour period to be nine ppm in the general environment such as streets, homes, shops, and warehouses. For longer periods the standard is adjusted to compensate for a recovery period, (half-life of CO is about six hours, therefore, the calculation for exposure above eight hours = 4.5 ppm for the whole twenty-four hour period.

Scientific studies have shown levels of CO well below our standard are still hazardous to health outcomes, causing cardiovascular diseases and reduced life expectancies.

Positive associations between ambient carbon monoxide exposure and emergency department visits and hospital admissions for ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure and cardiovascular disease are seen in multiple locations where ambient carbon monoxide concentrations range from 0.6 to 10.9 mg/m³, (0.6 mg/m³ = 0.52 ppm to 10.9 mg/m³ = 9.51 ppm).

We must grasp this opportunity to lobby local councils to have air monitoring along our major roads for CO levels in the breathing zone of pedestrians, cyclists, residents, and inside motor vehicles which are often four to six times the outside environment. In South Australia, our Port Adelaide branch have influenced the Port Adelaide Enfield council to have Victoria Rd monitored for CO and CO2; a local committee has been set up to recommend various locations along the road. The Victoria Road Birkenhead has 30,400 vehicles travelling along with it in each twenty-four hour period which equates to considerable toxic air pollution for each kilometre travelled.

Business leaders have never shown much interest in preventing climate change or air pollution, causing premature deaths of workers and their health. We cannot just leave business to business-as-usual.

Wisdom over the years has determined “prevention is better than cure.”

However, our federal government has and continues to spend billions protecting us from terrorism while simultaneously exposing us to the risks of toxic-air-pollution. Future lives don’t seem to count for much, or the value of those yet to be born. It gives the apparent impression that “Capitalist Democracy” is comatose.

Next article – This Week …

Back to index page

Go to What's On Go to Shop at CPA Go to Australian Marxist Review Go to Join the CPA Go to Subscribe to the Guardian Go to the CPA Maritime Branch website Go to the Resources section of our web site Go to the PDF of the Hot Earth booklet go to the World Federation of Trade Unions web site go to the Solidnet  web site Go to Find out more about the CPA