Cleaner air for Perth: walking, cycling and public transport can make a difference - Institute for Respiratory Health

Cleaner air for Perth: walking, cycling and public transport can make a difference

Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | News

Although Perth has good air quality, motor vehicles are still big sources of pollution. Research shows that if more people walked, biked, or used public transport, our air would be cleaner and healthier and people with respiratory problems would breathe easier.

With World Clean Air Day coming up on Thursday 20 June 2024, Professor Yuben Moodley from the Institute for Respiratory Health says, “Perth’s air quality is good but there are still things we can do to make it even better.”

One of the main sources of air pollution is tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles. These emissions include carbon monoxide, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.

When these exhaust fumes react with sunlight, they form ground-level ozone—commonly known as smog—a visible form of air pollution.

“WA has seen an increase in vehicle emissions over the past few years. In 2020/21, Western Australians travelled 19.5 billion kilometres by car.

“On average, every person aged 17 and older travelled 9,300 km by car. For perspective, while the rest of the country experienced a drop in average vehicle emissions per person between 1990 and 2020, WA saw an increase,” Professor Moodley said.

“Over this period, the average emissions per person from road transport increased by almost 11 per cent in WA, while the national average declined by almost one per cent.”

“It’s not all bad news,” Professor Moodley said. “Low emission and zero-emission vehicles, such as electric vehicles, produce significantly less or no tailpipe emissions. And their uptake in WA is on the rise.”

According to a local RAC survey, one in two members would consider an electric car as their next vehicle. Continued adoption of electric vehicles is one of the ways we can help keep our air clean and healthy.

Professor Moodley said other modes of transport can also help, “Trains produce almost 80 per cent less carbon than cars, making them a much greener option. And if everyone took the bus instead of driving just once a month, there would be a billion fewer car trips every year globally. Walking or cycling for half of our short trips in towns could save enough carbon to power every home in Perth.”

Professor Moodley added, “Perth has a chance to lead by example. By making simple changes like using public transport or biking instead of driving, we can keep our air clean and healthy and help people with lung conditions breathe better.”

Smoke and ash from bushfires and controlled burn-offs, as well as windborne dust and marine aerosols (like salt spray) also contribute to air pollution in Perth. As does smoke from domestic woodfire heaters.

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