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Vehicle emissions contributing to chronic disease

The health and lives of thousands of Australians are being compromised due to previously underestimated impacts of vehicle emissions, according to new modelling by Melbourne Climate Futures based at the University of Melbourne. 

Using recent evidence and calculations from international sources including New Zealand, Melbourne Climate Futures Academy fellows, Ms Clare Walter and Dr Kelvin, have estimated that vehicle emissions in Australia may cause:

  • 11,105 premature deaths in adults per year;

  • 12,210 cardiovascular hospitalisations per year;

  • 6,840 respiratory hospitalisations per year;

  • 66,000 active asthma cases per year.

Vehicle emissions contain a mix of pollutants including fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – tiny solid particles that can be inhaled and even enter the bloodstream – and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). In addition to the deaths and disease highlighted above, other health consequences include a range of cardio-respiratory diseases including lung cancer and childhood asthma, as well as adverse birth outcomes and diabetes.

Children and unborn babies are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.


Those chronically exposed to traffic pollution are far more likely to have asthma, respiratory infections, and even stunted lung growth and organ damage.

During a Vehicle Pollution Forum in February 2023, Melbourne Climate Futures released a position statement 'Health Impacts associated with traffic emissions', which sets out the problem, mitigation strategies, and calls for urgent action as a result of these new figures. The position statement was endorsed by Asthma Australia, the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA), Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA), and the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance (ACDPA).

Read more via The University of Melbourne

Published 9 March 2023

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