Assoc Prof Kotsirilos will present the scientific evidence to describe how air pollutants even in urban environments with exposures below accepted Government standards can seriously harm human health and is a cause of numerous health conditions commonly presenting to medical practitioners. She will present the solutions and how we can move forward to address air pollution.1. Air pollution currently contributes to over 3000 premature and preventable deaths per year in Australia
An explosive growth in scientific research in Australia and overseas in developing countries demonstrates air pollutants can negatively impact human health. Air pollutants can cause or aggravate existing lung and heart disease and many other health conditions,. Particulate Matters 2.5 (PM 2.5), PMs 10, Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ground level Ozone (O2), Sulphur dioxide (SO2) are respiratory irritants and can aggravate asthma, respiratory diseases and cause poor lung and cognitive development in children, and heart disease in adults.
2. Motor vehicles, coal-fired power stations and industry are the main sources of air pollutants of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in Australia
Diesel powered vehicles emit higher amounts of nitrogen dioxide compared to petrol vehicles. Vehicle emissions are a significant contributor to air pollution, contribute to higher sources of NO2 and impact nearly every Australian person including those living in urban environments near high pollution sources such as major roads.
3. Population growth and urban sprawl is resulting in more motor vehicles on the road contributing to rapid rises in air pollution
Australia's estimated resident population at 30 June 2017 of 24.6 million people is projected to increase up to 49.2 million people by 2066. Electric and hybrid vehicles will help reduce the level of emissions, but it may take a generation or two for the Australian population to fully embrace these alternatives from fossil fuel vehicles. Tyre pollution from zero emission vehicles is also a source of pollutants.
4. People who live, work and/or children attending childcare centres and schools near major roadways or sources of high air pollutants are at higher risk of harm
Children are particularly at risk when childcare centres and schools are located near major roads. Air pollution is often difficult to measure as many pollutants interact with changes in weather and wind, so measurements even at 100 metres apart can be very different. Studies have found vehicle emissions can cause significant risk of lung cancer among people living within 100 metres of major roads.
5. There is no safe level of air pollutants even below current Government standards
In line with international studies, Australian research demonstrates there is no safe level of air pollutants even well below the threshold standards. The World Health Organisation air quality guidelines state, "there is little evidence to suggest a threshold below which no adverse health effects would be anticipated".
6. The duration of exposure to air pollutants will result in different health outcomes
Chronic long term exposure to air pollution is associated with poor lung development in children, and cancer, cardio-vascular and chronic respiratory diseases in adults
Medium term weeks-months of exposure is associated with Low birth weight in pregnancy
Short term within day(s), hours, minutes of exposure to air pollution is associated with acute asthma attacks, increased exacerbations of allergies, rhinosinusitis, chronic obstructive airways diseases, heart attacks and sudden death
7. Children, elderly, pregnant women and people with pre-existing health conditions are more susceptible to harmful effects of air pollution
8. The incidence of asthma prevalence in Australian adults and children is rising
Over the last 10 years, the prevalence of asthma increased in the Australian population from 9.9% in 2007-08 to 11.2% in 2017-18. Asthma is multifactorial but recent research of children across twelve Australian cities found small increases in NO2 exposure are significantly associated with increased risk of asthma and reduced lung function with mean NO2 at exposure of 8.8 parts per billion(ppb). Further reducing NO2 exposure would help prevent asthma.