How cars take lives in more ways than just crashes

A New Zealand study has shown how cars take lives beyond just traffic accidents. Zainab Hussain reports

It is no secret that man made chemical emissions pose risks to human health, but nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter produced by cars are ailing and killing people every day.

While nitrogen dioxide comes from motor vehicle emissions, particulate matter is a result ofvehicles, specifically tyres, and brakeware. According to the Health and Air Pollution in New Zealand (Hapinz) study, based on the latest available complete data (from 2016) and published earlier this year,1 in 2016 alone nitrogen dioxide emissions have caused 2000 premature deaths, 2000 cardiovascular related hospital admissions, 6500 respiratory related hospital admissions, and an asthma prevalence of 13 200 every year. Meanwhile, particulate matter caused 1300 premature deaths, 2600 cardiovascular related hospital admissions, and 2000 respiratory illnesses. The researchers estimated that in total this has created 1.745 million restricted activity days (defined by the study as “days on which people could not do the things they might otherwise have done if air pollution had not been present”).

Samuel Cai, a lecturer in environmental epidemiology at the University of Leicester, says that though the figures might seem low compared with the UK and other European countries, they have led to a “profound finding.”

“The report says that 3300 deaths would represent about 11% of total deaths in New Zealand in 2016. That is remarkable because it means that roughly one in 10 deaths can be linked directly to air pollution.”


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