On 26th June 2010 the Sydney Morning Herald published an article headlined: Why living near a road is bad for your health. A major study was done by the US Health Effects Institute who reviewed 700 worldwide health-pollution studies. They found:
- traffic pollution within a 500-metre radius of a major thoroughfare was likely to exacerbate asthma in children
- trigger new asthma cases across all ages
- impair lung function in adults &
- could cause cardiovascular illness & death
Because the results showed a clear health-risk for those living within 500 metres of a main road the National Environment Protection Council will consider the US study in a review of existing national air pollution regulations next month.
The National Environment Protection Council will be considering “whether a limit should be imposed on the concentration levels of particulate matter larger than 2.5 micrometres. Currently authorities need to adhere to limits set for particulate matter larger than 10 micrometres.”
That’s good, even if it is significantly overdue. 25 years ago a friend’s mother told me not to rent a house in Leichhardt because it was a block away from Parramatta Road. She said the pollution will be dropping in your yard & you will be breathing it every day, especially when the wind blows towards the property. I took heed & let that house go even though the rent was low.
The Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries is already trying to find loopholes saying, “the industry supported moves to minimise pollution from cars, but added that air quality was good in Australia & warned against comparisons in US studies.” Except the 700 health-pollution studies were taken world-wide, not just in the US.
Recently I posted on the differences between Parramatta Road & the Pacific Highway. They are both main roads, but the differences between the two are astounding, so much so, one could believe they are in different countries, not in the same city separated by a bridge. The Pacific Highway has large trunk tall trees along its length. Tree canopies cascade over the road & no one is in fear even though the majority appears to me to be of the Eucalypt variety.
Parramatta Road however, has very few trees along the section managed by Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils & most of this road managed by other Councils are just as treeless. The Princes Highway also is almost devoid of trees, even though this road appears to have more obvious spaces that would allow for planting. I would think these Councils made a decision not to plant street trees along these main thoroughfares as these roads have remained in this state for decades. http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/north-shore-versus-inner-west-main-roads/
Now it is not just a matter of unsightliness (which has its own recognized impact on mental & physical health), it has been recognized as a serious health matter for the thousands of people who live within 500 metres of main roads. The pollution from Parramatta Road & the Princes Highway must be at astounding levels. I don’t know whether anyone has measured the pollution levels along these roads, but I doubt it will be too long before a study is done on this.
All the people who live within 500 metres of these roads are having their health compromised on a daily basis when all that needs to be done is plant decent sized street trees.
A tree with a 76 cm-diameter trunk removes 70 times more pollution per year than does a tree with a 7.5 cm trunk. This is not a big tree. Double the trunk size & you will be removing a much greater amount of particulate matter & other pollutants. The trees along the Pacific Highway are not small thin little things. They are big trunked robust growing trees with a significant canopy.
Trees are best known for their ability to sequester & store CO2, but they also absorb other pollutants such as Ozone, Nitrogen Dioxide & Sulfur Dioxide through their leaves. They reduce air temperature ground-level ozone, which contributes to greenhouse gas creation & global warming. They also remove up to 60% of street level particulate matter such as dust, smoke, ash & the sooty bi-product from car & truck exhausts. The more trees planted, the less heat is generated & the more air pollution is removed.
Now that health effects from pollution from main roads is finally being taken seriously in Australia, it is time all main roads are made safer. The cars & trucks are not going to go away for the foreseeable future & it doesn’t matter that engines of newer cars spew out lower levels of toxic material, it is still happening year in, year out & having a major effect on the health & lives of residents & people who work on or near main roads. Perhaps the Health Department will help cover the cost of trees for planting. It’s a valid argument as trees will help stop thousands of people becoming ill & landing up at hospitals.