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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Bad air in Sydney causing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and reflux?
Mood:  don't ask
Topic: health

Picture: File image from 2008 taken from Arncliffe to the CBD, and to Kingsford Smith Airport

At just after 6 am this morning the first international long haul flight over Marrickville (Heights) cleaves the dark air overhead. 20 minutes later editing a loosely written piece on this Slog the unmistakeable smell of diesel fumes wafts through the home office.

That's not healthy. Thanks for nothing airport. 

This echoes our vision last evening looking west from the Eastern Suburbs of a mist over the Sydney CBD. Was it natural mist? 10 years ago we recall holding up a sign outside the new Eastern Distributor tollway stating "400 premature deaths in Sydney per year from bad air" or something like that. We also got arrested on the picket line. Our view was that a cheap well organised southern railway should have made an Eastern Distributor redundant. Too many assumptions in there in hindsight.

By coincidence and before we see the day's press the Greens MP Lee Rhiannon comments on an air pollution story running today via the big media:

Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 6:26 AM
Subject: [Greens-Media] Leaked DECC documents reveal extent of Government'sfailure to reduce pollution

25 March 2009

Leaked DECC documents reveal extent of Government's failure to reduce

Greens MP and transport spokesperson Lee Rhiannon has criticised the
NSW Government for its failure to meet its own air quality targets,
following the release of a leaked draft copy of the government's Action
for Air 2009, which reports on measures to reduce emissions from
transport, industrial, commercial and domestic sources.

"The Action for Air report reveals the NSW government continues to miss
its targets for reducing photochemical smog and particle pollution,"
said Ms Rhiannon.

"The report links the government*s failure to meet its targets to the
lack of success in providing adequate public transport, integrating
urban planning with transport and shifting more freight onto rail.

"The top two objectives of the Action for Air plan are to integrate air
quality goals and urban transport planning and provide more and better
transport choices.

"Yet the government refuses to introduce tough policy measures to
reduce the overall number of vehicle kilometers traveled in NSW.

"The leaked report indicates that some pollution types will most likely
increase over the next decade due to climate change impacts and
population increases.

*If these trends are allowed to play out the future economic,
environmental and health costs of air pollution will be enormous.

"Vehicles and fuels might be getting cleaner, but the government has
done nothing to reduce our reliance on vehicles.

"Sydney*s population growth will see increased demand for housing,
transport, energy and consumer goods, which will all drive up air

"There is not one new pollution reduction initiative announced in this
report, nor any time frames for turning the pollution problem around.

"A host of rail and other public transport initiatives designed to
reduce vehicle use have been dropped by the government in the past

"It is crucial that the Government brings forward tough measures to get
people out of their cars and improve air quality," said Ms Rhiannon.

Which brings us to a personal anecdote. At 44 we have been suffering some heartburn around diet issues. Literally millions of people suffer heartburn and it's dangerous if not treated. This personal challenge seems to involve all kinds of changes like more exercise, more balanced diet, exclusion of certain foods, back up zantac tablets on the shelf at some supermarkets, caffeine free lifestyle (really, that hurts) etc etc. Such is mid life.

But we wonder if the story is a bit more profound than that around city air quality: We are taking action to relocate an hour north west of Sydney on a rural block and this involves alot of preparation digging a trench for mains grid, bushfire prevention work, cleaning out the dead rats, etc etc It's turning these soft hands hard.

But here's the thing. We don't get the gastric reflux out on the farm in the fresh air. We do get it in the city. It's not very scientific speaking as a biology science graduate because we are not exclusing limited diet there or exercise from the clean air or even the rainwater tank from the chlorine water supply but we wonder the association of reflux/heartburn/GERD with air pollution.

A brief google reveals this about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and reflux - these things can travel together at least by association:

Role of Gastroesophageal Reflux Symptoms in Exacerbations of COPD

Whether there is a mechanism linking the two or coincidence is another question. But it raises the question in our mind.

We do wonder. For 4 years 2001 to 2005 we lived just on the 400m boundary of the infamous M5 East freeway ventilation stack. Odourless, colourless and very unhealthy one assumes. Though we had an active delivery distribution job getting plenty of exercise you might think, during this time we seemed to go backwards in respiratory health. Invisible particulate pollution under 10 microns in size can do that. So can a lack of aerobic exercise as distinct from power work.

For all those reasons we are now looking forward to getting out to the farm even with the bushfire threat and clearing work needed around the house. Luckily there are two dams near by and we are taking advice on a bushfire bunker ... but that's another story in due course.

Posted by editor at 9:37 AM NZT

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