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To improve air quality we need our streets and particularly our busy roads to be as leafy as Oxford Street Darlinghurst.  I can see no reason other than disinterest as to why our streets cannot look like this.  In terms of room for trees, Oxford Street is comparable to many of our main streets.

The research on air pollution just keeps delivering.    Now it is breast cancer, one of the major cancers in Australia. 

Most of us would know of at least one woman who has or is a survivor of breast cancer.   Researchers from the University of Florida USA who studied almost 280,000 women found that –

  • “women with dense breasts were 19% more likely to have been exposed to higher concentrations of fine particle matter (PM2.5).
  • For every one unit increase in PM2.5, a woman’s chance of having dense breasts was increased by 4 per cent.” See – http://bit.ly/2nGgOMe

Women with dense breasts are 3-5 times more likely to develop breast cancer. Living in polluted areas increases dense breasts & cancer rates.

Cancer Australia says breast cancer is the second most commonly cancer diagnosed & the most common cancer diagnosed in women.

In 2017, it is estimated that 17,730 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in Australia (144 males and 17,586 females).”  They also say 28 men & 3,087 women will likely die from breast cancer this year.  To add something positive here – 90% of people with breast cancer survive at least 5-years post treatment.

This week SUVs & other diesel powered vehicles made the news because pollution from diesel fuel has been found to cause cancer & respiratory diseases.

In 2016 around 9 out of 10 utes & more than half the new SUVs sold in Australia were powered by diesel.  One third of all cars sold in Australia use diesel fuel.

You only need to look around the streets to see that SUVs are an extremely popular car in this area.  This is of concern because diesel creates more pollution than petrol using vehicles. See – http://bit.ly/2nGgOMe

World Health Organisation statistics state that 3-million people die annually die from air pollution related issues & more than 400,000 people die in Europe due to air pollution.   (http://bit.ly/2o03PqI)

In 2014 research from Environmental Justice Australia found that 3,000 Australians die prematurely from urban air pollution annually. You can download a pdf of their report here http://bit.ly/1M0RJoj

With statistics like these & knowing that traffic pollution within a 500-metre radius of a major thoroughfare has been found to

  • cause lung disease & impair lung function in both children & adults,
  • cause cardiovascular illness,
  • cause death   (http://bit.ly/1MKStR8)
  • increase risk of dementia ( http://bit.ly/2hZ961Q)
  • & now increased rates of breast cancer, you would think that getting rid of high pollution vehicles & planting more street trees would be a major priority.

Parramatta Road Stanmore – where are the street trees?  They only start when you cross the border into the City of Sydney municipality.

I read an interesting article in The Guardian yesterday titled, ‘The car is ingrained into people here’: West Midlands faces air pollution crisis.’  See – http://bit.ly/2oY2Fv7

The West Midlands is a region in England identified as an area of high air pollution air due to motorways & other high traffic roads. The United Kingdom has ten pollution hotspots & five of them are within the West Midlands region.

“The government’s own figures show air pollution [in this area] is responsible for almost 3,000 deaths a year ……”

This grabbed my attention.  3,000 deaths a year from something preventable is astounding.  What a powerful advertisement for public transport!

In June 2010, I posted about research on how living within a 500-metre  radius of a major thoroughfare was likely to cause major health issues & early death.  See – http://bit.ly/1MKStR8   I found it interesting to see that the distance from a main road in this UK study had dropped to only 150-metres.   In reality the situation would be much worse had they included the other 350-metres.

The Guardian article said thousands of British children are being exposed to illegal levels of air pollution due to schools & nurseries located within this 150-metre zone.   The article also said that none of the staff or parents of the ten worst affected nurseries in Birmingham were aware that this was a significant health issue for the children & employees.

Looking further, a whopping 2,091 places of learning for children from preschool to further education centres across England & Wales are within 150-metres of a high-traffic high-pollution road.  This is not a great start in life for these children.

Birmingham Council said it “was a challenge to change people’s attitudes to driving in a city that “grew up on the car industry”.  According to the council’s own figures 900 people die from poor air quality in the city each year, compared to 30 from road accidents.”

Birmingham Council is improving the cycle routes saying, “there are 200,000 journeys of under a mile in this city each day – it is about removing some of those trips.”  Inner West & City of Sydney Councils are doing similar with cycleways being added to allow people to ride safely on the street.

This is a great start, but the WestConnex Motorway cleaving its way through our municipality is of great concern for the future health of our community.  We are already burdened with a large number of high traffic roads through high density housing.

That the WestConnex Authority plans to install unfiltered stacks to release the air pollution from the tunnels has always concerned me.   I don’t know how much it would cost to have the air filtered to trap particulate matter & other air pollutants, but I do know that the future health costs of the community around these unfiltered stacks will be considerable.  Unless we go down in vast numbers, the health issues will be ignored & subsumed into the usual statistics.  Personally, I think the government is playing risk games with the future health of the community.

Also interesting is the image in the article of the spaghetti junction near Birmingham. It reminded me of the spin we are being given about our own impeding spaghetti junction at the massive Dial a Dump site at St Peters.

The WestConnex Authority says the area underneath the St Peters Interchange will become a tree-filled park with cycleways & walking paths.  It will be presented to the community as new green space in place of the large track of land & hundreds of mature trees taken from Sydney Park recently to widen the road for WestConnex Motorway.

This is an incredibly poor exchange – take from a beautiful & very much loved park & give back a spaghetti junction with hundreds of thousands of vehicles traveling above & spewing their pollution down on the new green space.

For the life of me I cannot imagine wanting to spend free time under a motorway with particulate matter raining down on me no matter how attractive it looks.  However, what cannot be seen will likely entice some people to think it is nice & safe to play there & I bet barbeques will be added to lure people in.

To cope with a climate change future & to cope with the air pollution from increased traffic in our densely built municipality, we need more trees.  We need trees & shrubs in gardens & more street trees.  The street trees species need to be able to reach a height above 5-metres & have broader canopies.  Big trees need to be planted in spaces where Energy Australia has no excuse to start pruning them because we can see that their pruning has reduced so many of our street trees into mangled messes or to a shadow of their former selves.

If we do not make a significant change in the streetscapes & gardens of our municipality, we will pay the price of increasing poor health in our children & ourselves & perhaps an early death.

We also need to ditch the car & walk, cycle & take more public transport whenever we can.  It will take a shift in our thinking & motivation, but we can do it.  I think one day we will be forced to.

Showing a partial view over the 16 hectares of what is to be the St Peters Interchange. Even though I expected a building site, actually seeing people’s homes and the trees removed shocked me.

May Street Reserve Corner of Campbell Street and Unwins Bridge Road St Peters has been destroyed and all the mature trees removed.  One more patch of green space removed in an area with the least amount of green space in Australia.  

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