Air pollution deadlier
than we thought, say scientists
by Richard Macey
Sydney Morning Herald Article 4th April 2002
Inhaling tiny pollution particles
pumped into the air by trucks, industry and fires may be more deadly than previously
thought, United States researchers say.
The scientists, who tracked
500,000 Americans for 16 years, found long-term exposure to very small particles
significantly increased deaths from lung cancer and heart diseases.
The findings prompted calls for Australia to do more to fight air
pollution and quickly establish its own standard for very fine particles.
Researchers from New York
University and Brigham Young University, Utah, calculated that lung cancer
deaths increased by 8 per cent for every 10 micrograms of fine-particle
pollution floating in every cubic metre of air.
Cardio-pulmonary disease deaths rose 6 per cent with the same exposure.
‘We found that the risk of
dying from lung cancer as well as heart disease in the most polluted cities was
comparable to the risk associated with non-smokers being exposed to second-hand
smoke over a long period of time,’ said the team’s leader, Dr Arden Pope.
The co-leader, Associate
Professor George Thurston, said: ‘This study is compelling because it involves
hundreds of thousands of people in many cities across the US who were followed
for almost two decades. The bad
news is that fine-particle pollution is even more toxic than we thought.’
The researchers defined fine
particles as smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter.
Leigh Martin, urban campaign manager for Sydney’s Total Environment
Centre, said Australia did not even have a standard for particles that
small.‘That is a major shortcoming.’
A spokesman for the NSW Environment Protection Authority conceded that it was concerned by the US findings.