Year round ‘chemical soup’ does the damage

Year round ‘chemical soup’ does the damage

11 October 2006

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Malaysia — Chan Chee Khoon’ letter Haze causes not justdiscomfort, it kills rightly points out that concerns exist over the long-term health effects of recurrent exposure to the haze at this time of year. The fact that Sastry’s findings in 2002 also show that exposure to the haze increases mortality will now concentrate the mind even more.

However, the likelihood is that once this year’s installment of the haze is over, most of us will forget the dangers until it happens again in 2007. Sadly, this focus on the haze distracts us from the real danger that lurks in our cities – that of constant and worsening air pollution from vehicular exhausts and industrial chimneys throughout the year.

Of particular danger to us are the pollutants that are emitted from diesel engines – the buses, lorries and increasing numbers of passenger vehicles that are powered by this fuel. Diesel exhaust particles, or DEPs, have been shown to accelerate the development of cardiovascular disease that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. In those with pre-existing vascular disease, especially diabetics, bad air pollution days can trigger such a catastrophic event.

The news is worse for children – exposure of the unborn child to air pollution can increase the incidence of birth defects and childhood cancers, as well as significantly increasing the risk for asthma and lung damage. These risks have been well-documented in the scientific literature for the past decade or so, but are rarely brought up and discussed.

The consequence of our disregard for these long-term effects of air pollution may be a significant public health disaster in future years as millions of our population are exposed in cities throughout Malaysia.

Those who are observant will notice that the haze never leaves Kuala Lumpur even when the Indonesians are not slashing and burning. This perpetual chemical soup from our traffic and our industries is what is doing the most damage to us and our children.


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