There has been a series of incredibly comprehensive articles in the media recently, shedding light on the devastating effects of air pollution on our health in Melbourne’s inner west.
In late January The Age ran a fantastic story titled, The breathtaking state of truck pollution in Melbourne’s west. This was written by a group of journalism students from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism.
The story highlighted Maribyrnong residents’ poor health for diseases commonly attributed to air pollution and mentioned the decades long fight by community groups such as MTAG. It also discussed the Inner West Air Quality Report and its shocking revelations on the state of health impacts in the community.
Respiratory physician Dr Louis Irving is quoted as saying “it’s already a crisis” describing how we have reached a tipping point when it comes to vulnerable people’s exposure to air pollution.
This story won the Democracy’s Watchdogs 2022 award for investigative journalism – for the key elements of “holding power to account, exposing hidden and underreported issues, having strong case studies and being in the public interest”. A well deserved award!
In late February The Age ran another story titled The hidden road toll: Pollution may kill 10 times more than crashes
This front page story looked at a new report released by the Melbourne Climate Futures centre at the University of Melbourne finding that vehicle emissions are estimated to cause a shocking 11,105 premature deaths a year in Australia, as well as 12,210 cardiovascular hospitalisations and 66,000 childhood asthma cases. The story used Melbourne’s inner west as an example of an area with heavy pollution from trucks, high rates of lung and heart conditions and an inadequate government response to addressing the problem.
The ABC also ran a story on this research, with the Heart Foundation chief medical adviser and cardiologist Garry Jennings saying that policy makers should do everything possible to have the cleanest fuels and regulate emissions as it’s “clear that very fine particles are capable of damaging not only the lungs but also the heart and cardiovascular systems”
This was followed by a much more comprehensive article on the ABC titled Air pollution causes thousands of deaths in Australia each year. Residents and scientists are fighting back.
Again this story highlighted air pollution in Melbourne’s inner west. The article quotes health and air pollution experts, including Keith Loveridge who recently worked at Maribyrnong Council and wrote their Air Quality Improvement Plan. As Keith points out, Australia’s air pollution standards aren’t nearly as strict as those recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and often when air is considered good under Australian standards, it would be considered poor under WHO guidelines. The article also looks at the air monitoring carried out by the West Gate Tunnel with a new report looking at this data finding that local air pollution levels increased the chance of a child with asthma experiencing the illness by 33%.
The article also discusses the age of our trucking fleet with Peter Anderson, CEO of the Victorian Transport Association saying the average age of a truck on an Australian road is 17 years, with the old trucks doing the inner city short hall runs. He calls on the government to create a clear transition plan for the industry with incentives for companies to change.
This was also a feature story on the ABC 7pm news.
These articles are frightening but we are so relieved that this health situation is finally being exposed for what it is – a crisis. We are also heartened to have experts backing up the messages we’ve been putting out for almost two decades. Momentum is building and evidence is well and truly on our side.