Posted by: Matthew | May 6, 2011

More on the laxness of National Standards

I have argued here that the National Standards of air pollution used in New Zealand are so lax and unenforced that they are practically meaningless. This wouldn’t be a problem except it ruins peoples enjoyment of lives, makes them sell up and move away from their homes and kills 11,000 New Zealanders a year. So with Nick Smith and John Key’s delaying tactics in bringing in just a modicum of enforcement of the standards it is rightly seen as dilly-dallying that causes unnecessary deaths. I linked to another blog accusing Nick Smith of statistical murder and got an interesting comment from a statistician:

“Statistical murder” is an interesting concept, but the author of the website you link to has no idea what it really means.

In Europe, current PM2.5 pollution, averaging 16.6 ug/m3 costs Europeans an average of more than a year of life. Not everyone dies prematurely – so to average more than a year per person, a significant proportion of people must die 5 or 10 years before their time.

The same is true in NZ. Woodsmoke pollution reduces the ability of the lung to fight infection, so you get more colds and flu, as well as more heart attacks, strokes and cancer – all of which can kill you 10 or even more years before your time. Air pollution also increases infant mortality, cutting some lives by over 70 years.

Heart attacks and strokes are very disabling and, like cancer and respiratory diseases affect the quality of life – “if you can’t breathe, nothing else matters!”

Even if you value a year of life at a few thousand dollars, the cost of not cleaning up the air is far greater than doing the right thing. So let’s do it! And then, because the targets were arbitrary and don’t mean that the air is “clean” or “safe”, continue to reduce pollution until the health costs of air pollution are no greater than the cost of cleaning up the air.

Woodsmoke contains the same and similar chemicals as tobacco smoke and is associated with the same health problems – heart and lung diseases, cancers, middle ear infections. The main difference is that the chemicals in woodsmoke are more poisonous. A lab test found woodsmoke caused 30 times more tumours in mice than tobacco smoke.

If a friend or relative gets a respiratory infection because of air pollution, straining a heart weaken by the inflammation from years of woodsmoke exposure, “statistical murder” will seem real enough. Dying at 65 when you might have lived to 80 is a big deal.

On what basis are the 50 micrograms of 10 micron particulates per cubic metre of air actually set? They are higher then the WHO standards? Why is there no 2.5 micron standard in New Zealand? Has any one actually done a taste test, and exposed people to different levels of wood smoke and asked what was pleasant, what was okay and what was intolerable? Would it even be ethical to design a test that exposes human test subjects to 50 micrograms of 10 micron particulates per cubic metre of air for any length of time? And why is it ethical to do so into the suburban environments where people actually live? Hint: it isn’t ethical at all.

Why did the National Party, and it’s piss-weak hypocritical fuck-the-environment group, the Blue-Greens think it was okay to not clean up air quality? All the cited reasons they gave were bogus. Does the National Party really need the Act Party to pretend that Act are the right wingers and they’re a little bit more moderate? It seems to me that the National Party is doing a fine job of being evil bastards themselves.

Who is going to ask Nick Smith in parliament if he feels that he is responsible for the deaths that he will cause?

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