April 15, 2016

Experts join forces to clear Australia’s air

Leading Australian experts joined forces to establish an alliance of academics, doctors and lawyers to tackle the unseen and often poorly understood impact of air pollution on health in Australia. The inaugural National Air Quality and Health meeting highlighted the challenges in effectively communicating research finding on the health effects of air pollution to the general community.

At the first of a planned series of meetings, delegates resolved to:

  • Develop a position statement on air quality and respiratory health
  • Conduct a retrospective study of lung cancer and air quality
  • Develop an expert group for rapid media response

The meeting identified the emergence of air pollution personal monitors and other community focussed tools as a potential focus to better connect researchers to the community. Centre for Air Quality & Health Research and Evaluation’s Associate Professor Geoff Morgan said there were significant challenges making academic studies resonate with the general community. “Australia has a long history of research into the health effects of air pollution however we need to make this information more relevant to the person on the street,” Associate Professor Morgan said.

Lung Foundation Australia CEO Heather Allan said one of the key outcomes was the move to better connect the many pools of knowledge already available on the health effects of air pollution.“We need to better coordinate our messages on the broad spectrum of air pollution and health issue from research to advocacy on public health,” Mrs Allan said.

“We want to ask what this research means and how the results impact on everyday Australians,” she said.” People under-appreciate the impact of air pollution because they don’t see smog hanging over their heads or smell smoke as they wait for the bus.

“Yet the quality of our air affects all of us, from the youngest baby to the oldest grandmother. You can’t always see the health impact of air pollution or the real life impact every breath you take can have.

“The research shows that even though Australia generally has low urban air pollution levels compared to other comparable countries, lowering air pollution will help reduce cardio-respiratory disease and cancer in the population.”

Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing research showed more than 3,000 deaths each year were attributable to air pollutioni. In Sydney alone air pollution is responsible for about $8.4 billion in health costs a yearii.



i Begg, Vos, Barker, Stevenson, Stanley & Lopez, The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Cat. no. PHE 82, Canberra (2007), p234

ii Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW), Air Pollution Economics: Health Costs of Air Pollution in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Region, Sydney (2005), p43