Creating a stink about traffic pollution

June 20, 2012
Creating a stink about traffic pollution
Associate Professor Adrian Barnett says we should be making a stink about pollution.

With the World Health Organization categorising diesel fumes as carcinogenic a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) scientist said if fumes had a stronger smell they would be easier to avoid.

QUT Public Health Associate Professor Adrian Barnett said most exhaust gasses were odourless and invisible as were some other very dangerous pollutants such as carbon monoxide, and ozone.

"It is possible to give a smell and this has been demonstrated by some , such as chip fat," he said.

"Standard fuels could be given a smell by using an additive, such as methanol or that smells after combustion.

"If traffic pollution smelled it might encourage policy changes to reduce exposure."

He said one easily fixable example was drive-throughs, where staff spend long hours next to idling engines, and often in enclosed spaces.

"The staff and their employers are probably unaware of their high exposure to traffic pollution. Adding a smell would change that and a simple solution would be for drivers to turn off idling engines.

"Turning off idling engines would also be beneficial in school pick-up zones, where lines of children, whose lungs are particularly vulnerable to traffic pollution, stand next to idling engines.

"If children, parents and schools were made aware of the problem of traffic pollution via a smell, many parents would turn off their engines."

Professor Barnett said knowing the dirtiest times and places would enable people to avoid exposure which was a key recommendation of an expert review on reducing the harms of traffic pollution.

"Exposure could be avoided by taking a different route to work, or jogging at a different time of the day."

He said a public that was more aware of the of traffic pollution may be in favour of policy changes such as the development of pedestrian city centres and make them more wary of the planned locations of new roads.

"Many recently added or expanded roads in Brisbane are right next to hospitals and schools, two places where increasing traffic pollution will have a strong negative impact on health," he said.

"While the petrol and automotive industries are likely to argue that money would be better spent improving fuel and vehicle technology to reduce traffic pollution, the reality is that a completely clean vehicle fleet is 20 to 40 years away."

He said bold policy decisions such as banning smoking in pubs and proven successful in the past and such decisions were called for in relation to vehicle emissions.

Explore further: Pregnant mothers at risk from air pollution

Related Stories

Pregnant mothers at risk from air pollution

October 7, 2011
A Californian-based study has looked in detail at air quality and the impact of traffic-related air pollution on premature birth. Published in BioMed Central's open access journal Environmental Health, results from this study ...

Recommended for you

Study finds being in a good mood for your flu jab boosts its effectiveness

September 25, 2017
New research by a team of health experts at the University of Nottingham has found evidence that being in a positive mood on the day of your flu jab can increase its protective effect.

New tool demonstrates high cost of lack of sleep in the workplace

September 25, 2017
Sleep disorders and sleep deficiency are hidden costs that affect employers across America. Seventy percent of Americans admit that they routinely get insufficient sleep, and 30 percent of U.S. workers and 44 percent of night ...

Maternal diet could affect kids' brain reward circuitry

September 25, 2017
Researchers in France found that rats who ate a junk food diet during pregnancy had heavier pups that strongly preferred the taste of fat straight after weaning. While a balanced diet in childhood seemed to reduce the pups' ...

Breathing dirty air may harm kidneys, study finds

September 21, 2017
Outdoor air pollution has long been linked to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A new study now adds kidney disease to the list, according to ...

Excess dietary manganese promotes staph heart infection

September 21, 2017
Too much dietary manganese—an essential trace mineral found in leafy green vegetables, fruits and nuts—promotes infection of the heart by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus ("staph").

Being active saves lives whether a gym workout, walking to work or washing the floor

September 21, 2017
Physical activity of any kind can prevent heart disease and death, says a large international study involving more than 130,000 people from 17 countries published this week in The Lancet.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.