Posted by: Andre | 2008/06/05

Vehicle emissions

Everyone is mum on the health risk posed by vehicle emissions. I believe there is a variety of heavy metal contaminents in such emissions. I drive a motorcycle in peak traffic and inhale the vapours. Sometimes my lungs ache. I see the brown smog everywhere in metro areas. I get the feeling that the medical industry is controlled so as not to speak about it. Cigarette smoke is "bad", but I sense that Vehicle emission contaminents are far worse. Please elaborate. Or is this a Manto conundrum?

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Our expert says:
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Well, the medical industry could be being manipulated, but even so I think you'd need to be pretty far in denial to imagine motor vehicle pollution is innocuous... we know it's not doing us any good. We just don't wanna stop driving (or biking, right?)

Motor vehicle emissions are full of toxins, including some heavy metals, but are not considered to be quite as bad as indoor tobacco smoke (both actively and passively inhaled). That said, research on vehicle pollution is at an earlier stage than research on tobacco smoke. But evidence on the former is mounting, and suggests:

Exposure to urban air pollution (of which traffic pollution is the most important contributor) raises the risk, over the long term, for the development of heart and respiratory conditions. Studies have also linked air pollution to lung cancer, and to poor lung development in children. It's likely that other organ systems are also affected, but currently there's less evidence for this. How much this sort of exposure raises risk, and how it acts together with other causative factors, is not yet clear. In the short-term, it increases the risk of acute attacks and deaths for people already suffering from heart and respiratory conditions, and the elderly. Children are also considered to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of pollution. There are also well-established short-term symptoms in many people - such as the sore lungs you describe.

One not particularly good piece of news is that your exposure to pollution during rush hour is probably not that much worse than it is for drivers inside their vehicles - even if it seems better with the aircon on.

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